For many, the swim portion of a triathlon produces a healthy dose of butterflies and pre-race jitters. This week LYNX ran a swim clinic for Tri-Diva racers to share some race day tips and strategies.
Tip #1: Breathe!
Paying attention to your breathing starts long before you are in the water. It starts anytime you start to feel anxious. The way you breathe affects your whole body and breathing calmly and deeply can help you relax and feel less anxious. At the start of the session, we chatted about staying calm on the pool deck while waiting to race. I had everyone inhale for a two count and exhale for four. While doing this, I suggested they look at the pool and imagine themselves swimming.
Then, once the race starts and you calmly enter the water, the next step is remembering to breathe while swimming! I had all the ladies practice a “sink down” to ensure that they could calmly exhale and relax in the water. Can you do it? Try it and find out! Without using your hands, calmly exhale (through your nose and mouth) until you start to sink. You might find you start to sink but then pop back up. If this happens, keep exhaling until you pass that “tipping point” by continuing to empty your lungs. Once you can calmly sink, it’s time to start calmly swimming.
Tip #2: Don’t start off too fast
You will be better off if you swim calming and continuously rather than going out too fast, blowing up, and then having to rest on the wall. I had everyone swim some warm-up laps and focus on their breathing when swimming. I had them check to see if they exhale continuously when their face is in the water? Or, if they hold their breath until it’s time to breathe and then quickly force all the air out and then suck in another breath. If they were doing the latter, I had them practice blowing bubbles when swimming just like they were doing during the sink downs. Most people said they felt more relaxed swimming when they were exhaling continuously.
Next, I had them swim hard and then experiment with ways to calm their breathing down while still swimming. This is a skill worth practicing! Even if you plan on swimming at a controlled pace, once you get into an event with others and your heart is racing and people are tapping your toes, it’s easy to end up swimming a bit faster than intended. When this happens, it’s good to know how you will settle yourself down. In addition to slowing down and calming their breathing, we also discussed calling on a mantra to keep negative thoughts at bay. My swimming mantra is “calm & strong”. What’s yours?
Tip #3: Get comfortable being uncomfortable
The ladies were gaining confidence as they were working through the clinic exercises so it was time to put them to the test. During the final portion of the clinic, we had a race simulation. It was time to add some stress and give them the opportunity to get comfortable being uncomfortable. Everyone started on the pool deck, self-seeded each other in their respective lanes and then one by one they entered the water. Although I was counting laps for everyone, I had them each come up with a counting plan so they could keep track of their laps. Everyone completed their “race”, got accurate seed times and reported to have used some of the strategies we had covered in the session.
It was great working with these ladies and I’m looking forward to seeing them all race next Sunday out in Strathmore at the Tri-Diva Tri.