Swim, Bike, Run – Simple Tips for the Triathlete Beginner

By Barbara Ficarra, RN, BSN, MPA

Part I (Swimming)

Back in November I posted a blog about the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge based on a tweet from Sanjay Gupta, MD, Chief Medical Correspondent for CNN.

Dr. Sanjay Gupta was looking for eager participants for the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge.  As a result of that post, Linda Fisher-Lewis, a Healthin30 reader was chosen as one of the contestants to train for CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge.

Contestants have been busy training for the Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge and they’ve been blogging about their experiences on Dr. Sanjay Gupta’s blog.

CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge will take place in a few weeks in New York City.

If you’re thinking about taking part in a triathlon, but are a little hesitant, we asked our experts at Healthin30 to weigh in on triathlons, focusing on the beginner athlete.

Make a splash with these swimming tips from our swimming expert, Kevin Koskella

Kevin Koskella, coaches Masters Swim Teams in San Francisco and San Diego since 2001 and being an accomplished swimmer, earning the highly prized All-American status at the collegiate  level, Kevin is a leader in aiding the beginner and experienced triathlete towards excellence in the swimming portion of the race.

“You do not need to be a great swimmer to complete a triathlon, but you will not have a good time if you are a poor swimmer and do not practice enough in the water.  Don’t bite off more than you can chew. We all know about the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii, and many have that as their ultimate goal, but it is important to start small. Sign up for a sprint triathlon, see how it goes, then up the ante a bit for your next one.  Quality of workouts is more important than quantity. The goal should be better health and fun not winning the first race you enter. Proper nutrition, warm ups, and cool downs are essential parts of your training.”

So you’re ready to get out there and do some open water swimming to prepare for your next triathlon? Before you go dipping into your local body of water, keep these tips in mind:  (Originally posted triswimcoach.)

8 Tips to Training the Open Water by Kevin Koskella

  • Never swim alone. For safety purposes, always swim with a group or bring along a friend. Given the unknown elements, a dangerous situation may arise such as fog, currents, boats, etc. where you will be in much better shape with others around.
  • Adjust to cold water. If the water you are training in is cold, below 66 degrees fahrenheit, be prepared. Wetsuits are necessary. Wearing a swim cap and earplugs can help keep your head warm. Get in the water slowly and only get in for 5-20 minutes the first time out, gradually increasing your time in the water with each swim.
  • Upon exit of your cold water swim, drink warm fluids, take off your wetsuit, and dress warmly.
  • On sunny days, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before getting in (especially for those with light skin!).
  • Be careful of the fog. It is easy to get lost in foggy weather and lose sight of the shore.
  • Watch the seaweed. If you are ocean swimming and come across seaweed, stay high in the water and do not kick. The seaweed can wrap around you if your legs are kicking.
  • Never swim in a lightning storm.
  • Open water swimming can cause chaffing. Use petroleum jelly if this is a problem.
  • Goggle color. Use dark lenses on sunny days, blue lenses on cloudy days.

Open water swimming can be challenging, but for many it is FUN and a nice change from “following the black line” at the bottom of the pool. Enjoy, and remember, “when in doubt, get out.”

Well, if you’re thinking about training for a triathlon I hope these swimming tips helped. You’ll find more great swimming tips at TriSwimCoach.  You can follow Kevin on Twitter @triswimcoach.

A triathlon is on my very long “to-do” list and truthfully it is the swimming part of it that is holding me back.  Once I am ready to dive into the world of triathlons, I’ll be armed with some great tips.

We’d love to hear from you.  Have you ever been in a  triathlon?  What was your experience like?

You can follow me on Twitter @BarbaraFicarra.

About Kevin Koskella

With over 27 years experience in coaching and competing, Kevin Koskella is one of the top triathlon swim coaches in the U.S. today.

Coaching Masters Swim Teams in San Francisco and San Diego since 2001 and being an accomplished swimmer, earning the highly prized All-American status at the college level, Kevin Koskella is a leader in aiding the beginner and experienced triathlete towards excellence in the swimming portion of the race.

Kevin’s coaching philosophy differs from the traditional approach to competitive swimming:  He believes that the best swimming techniques are different than the traditionally taught styles:

Traditional:  The traditional approach and philosophy in swimming has been “no pain, no gain” and “the more, the better,” usually with slower swim timing and results as well as burnout and injuries.

Koskella Triathlete:  This progressive approach incorporates using several techniques and drills in workouts, as well utilizing clinics and private lessons, allowing swimmers to get more out of their strokes, swim faster, and swim more fluidly, while keeping their heart rates down. In other words, getting more out of less!

Kevin coaches sessions for swimming masters and triathletes in San Diego, and conducts a variety of clinics, private lessons, and video-analysis of personal swim style with critique and correction. He has helped professional Ironman triathletes reach their goal, but his passion is to give the new triathlete the confidence to be successful in the swim portion of the race. He also incorporates cutting edge nutritional practices and yoga into his coaching for optimal swimming and triathlon performance.

Kevin is an active contributor to Triathlete Magazine, Inside Triathlon Magazine, Men’s Health Magazine, and popular websites, Active.com and Beginner Triathlete.com, focusing on issues, tips on swimming for beginners, and helping his triathlete students to resolve common swimming problems.

More information on Kevin Koskella can be found here.


Part II will focus on the biking and running part of a triathlon.  Our Healthin30 expert, Jeff Kline, will provide you with simple tips, and find out what Peter Shankman’s (founder of HARO, and triathlon competitor) favorite mobile device is that he uses when he trains.

(The content on this website and related broadcasts is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for medical advice or treatment for any medical condition. Promptly seek professional medical care if you have any concern about your health. Always consult your physician before making any changes to your medical regimen.)

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