Tri Coach Tuesday: Why You’re NOT Swimming Faster

by D3 Multisport Coach Dave Sheanin


Of the four legs of triathlon (yes, transitions count too), swimming is arguably the most technical. And, not surprisingly, it’s the leg that many athletes struggle with the most. I believe there’d be general agreement that the “easiest” way to become a great swimmer is to start when you’re young, have great coaches who help you hone excellent technique, and then put in lots of yards under watchful eyes through high school and eventually college. I’ll bet that any triathlete who followed this simple plan is one who leads the pack into T1 today.

That’s nice for the few, but what’s the right path for everyone else? I am absolutely certain that the right path is not what most people take. I see so many triathletes, in their quest to become faster swimmers, make every mistake they can make–all the while, believing that they’re doing what’s required to become faster. They are on a long, inevitable march toward disappointment (and slow swim splits).

If you have been frustrated by your improvement in the water, the key to getting on the right track is multifaceted. It is probably obvious that making technical corrections to your position and stroke is key–something that’s difficult to do on your own. Nothing beats having an experienced coach providing individualized and immediate feedback and using tools such as video to provide detailed analysis. That’s not a realistic plan for most folks on a daily

basis, but having these resources is the absolute key to improvement so work them into your training, even if only occasionally.

Many of us use to-do lists in our daily lives, but how many have a stop-doing list? Stop-doing lists are just as critical as to-do lists for success (in life and in swimming). Here are my recommendations for your swimming stop-doing list.

1. Stop doing what you’ve been doing! If you’re happy with the way you swim now, you should ignore this advice. But if you want to get faster and haven’t been able to do so up to this point, what makes you think that doing more of what you’ve been doing will work? Before you read the next item, pause for a moment and think about this. Really think about your commitment to improvement. If you aren’t willing to adhere to this piece of advice, there’s no need to read further.


2. Stop caring what other people think!

3. Stop swimming 3-4 times a week and striving for big yardage!

4. Stop “shopping” coaches for swimming advice!

5. Stop expecting immediate results!

6. Stop thinking toys are the key to improvement!


Now (the offseason) is the right time to be working on your stroke. Remember that it may take months (or even years) to dial in your new, faster, more-efficient, safer stroke. The pressure of going fast on race day is generally antithetical to improvement–give yourself as much runway as you can. Put the right effort in once and avoid a lifetime of frustration. It starts with your stop-doing list. Get started today.


Be sure to read Coach Dave’s full article on D3  here

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