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Swimming Faster:  How to Find a Great Swim Technique Coach

If you're new to the sport of triathlon, you might also be new to swimming. Maybe you have been in pools, lakes, and/or oceans as a kid and young adult, but this is the first time that you have actually tried to swim longer distances and tried to train as an open water distance swimmer. If so, you may have a lot of overall fitness (from cycling, running, or other sports), but you are noticing that that fitness doesn't seem to translate very well to the water.


One reason that your fitness may not transfer to your swimming is that you have yet to put in the time and yards needed in the water. But a bigger reason may be that your swimming technique is holding you back. Poor swim technique, if not addressed, can cause insurmountable problems in the water. In cycling, an equivalent analogy would be a very strong cyclist riding with a fully open parachute behind him: no amount of cycling fitness will be able to eliminate that enormous disadvantage.


Good swim technique will allow you to maximize your propulsion and, far more important, minimize your drag. Most likely, you will need to get outside input and help from a swim technique coach or instructor to see real improvements. A great instructor will be able to see your flaws and then give you the guidance to improve your swim efficiency. If triathlon is in your future, it would do you wonders to get competent help from a smart and effective swim technique instructor. The problem is that instructors like that are actually difficult to find. But the payoff is HUGE if you make the effort to do it. So where to start?


Over the years, we have given a lot of swim technique instruction to triathletes and also have considerable experience teaching very complex motor skills to adults. Over time, we have also received instruction from many different swim coaches and closely observed many swim instructors from all over the US. From this, we have gotten much faster as triathlon swimmers and learned a few key things about teaching swimming technique.


For example, when selecting a technique instructor, it may be wise to avoid one that has swum fast since early childhood. Because the important thing for you as a new swimmer is not to just find a super fast swimmer as a coach. Yes, you should find someone who can swim fast and someone who also really knows triathlon, but what you really need is someone who (and here's the kicker) can teach you how to swim faster. And, as you might imagine, this is not so easy to do. Sure, many very fast swimmers who have been training since youth swim great, but they do it almost instinctively, many of them simply don't know how to closely observe and troubleshoot your specific technique flaws and then tell you exactly how to correct each of them. Partly because they've never been down that path themselves.


But we have noticed that some fast swimmers who started out as slower swimmers (so they were not trained competitive youth swimmers), but then learned piece-by-piece how to swim very fast often end up being the best adult swim technique coaches and teachers. Because they know exactly what it took for them to "get" the fundamentals of better technique and better body position. And they'll most likely be able to help you in a way that you can rapidly comprehend, fully understand, and then easily execute.


To find such an instructor, you can try internet searches. You can talk to people at your local YMCA, athletic club, masters swim group, or triathlon club. Another way is to ask every fast triathlete you know or meet. You might want to ask the slow and medium fast triathletes too, they might have such an instructor working with them. Ask every single lifeguard you run into. Ask every swim or triathlon coach that you meet. Ask on internet forums. Ask for suggestions and recommendations.


Follow up with every lead you get. Interview those prospective instructors. Try a lesson. If, during a technique lesson or a one-on-one feedback session, you don't understand the instructor's directions, or he/she doesn't answer your questions with complete clarity, patience, and encouragement, or if you don't feel clear and unmistakable (even if small) progress with every session, then you probably need to find a better teacher. No worries, they are out there. Move on, keep on looking. Rinse. Repeat. Because we can assure you, your persistence will be rewarded. Learning good technique will make it possible for you to both master and to love swimming. And you will be become faster than you ever imagined you could be.


Happy swimming,

The DSW Team

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