My dad taught me to swim around the age of 5 in my grandparents’ pool. As a kid and even a teenager I swam regularly but not for fitness, it was to stay cool and for fun! So I’ve always been pretty comfortable in the water, which is often the greatest struggle people face when learning to swim. But it wasn’t until my 30s and starting triathlon that I started to train to swim better.
I thought I was relatively fit when I started to swim, but I was completely out of breath after my first 50m! I couldn’t believe how hard it was to actually swim a few laps with no break. My pace was >2:00/100m and I didn’t really enjoy swimming laps in the pool, but I was scared about the 1km swim in the triathlon I’d signed up for at the start of 2017. This drove me to swim a couple of times a week for 5-6 weeks prior, in an effort to be able to complete the 1km swim distance.
Motivation through racing
Race day quickly came, and for me, it was a case of just trying to survive until I could get onto dry land. I remember my goggles filling up completely with water as soon as I tried to swim, resulting in being dead last before I got going (Tip: make sure your goggles fit and sit well before starting your race!). My pace relative to everyone else was pretty poor as I exited the water at the rear of the field. I still really enjoyed the whole event though and wanted to race more!
The experience motivated me to sign up to swim squad at my local pool, so I could perform better on race day. I hate early starts, so getting up early a couple of times a week for swimming squad was quite the challenge. But my drive to improve motivated me to put the effort in. The distance I was swimming each session increased from around 2km up to 2.5 and sometimes 3km. I saw my pace drop down to 1:50/100m over the next 4-5 months as I kept working at my swimming. I persisted until winter came when I decided to stop swim squad and instead swim at lunchtimes (I hate being cold!).
When the ITU announced the 2018 world triathlon championships would be on the Gold Coast in Australia, the news increased my motivation as I wanted to race to represent Australia! I got a triathlon coach and was more consistent in swimming 2-3 times a week.
Improvement through consistency
Consistency over time really is the key to improvement, as I saw my swim pace drop from 1:45/100m at the start of 2018, down to high 1:30s/100m by the end of that same year. This was through swimming 2-3 times each week, with swim distances often 3km and sometimes up to 4km. In 2019 I parted ways with my coach and have been trying to really build swim fitness. I currently swim 3 times a week (Monday / Wednesday / Friday) all year round. I’m still continuing to improve and progress with my swim, as my pace has improved to under 1:35/100m. That’s an improvement of at least 25sec/100m over the last couple of years. I know if I keep working at my swim I’ll continue to improve.
These days I find it very rewarding swimming laps, and its a nice break from work. Swimming technique for me doesn’t come naturally, but I really enjoy the process and the light bulb moments when something clicks into place! Don’t be dishearted if you don’t see any improvement in a few weeks, one of the many things I’ve picked up through my journey is that it takes consistency over time to get results.