Triathlon? Swimming

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The latest in a series of posts about the writer trying to go from couch potato to triathlete. Check out previous posts here.

Swimming is tons of fun. When I was a kid, growing up in the Northeastern Oklahoma farmlands, we’d take a boat out to the middle of a lake, hop out, and swim for hours. Snakes, turtles, spiky fish, whatever. We had endless energy, and the natural buoyancy of adolescence.

Flash forward to 2012. I’m a grown man and get exhausted in two laps in a pool. My wife, a former lifeguard, describes my swimming style as a “short fistfight with the water, and you always lose.”

Most triathlons take place in open water, and sprint distances are at least half a mile. If I was really going to do this, I needed to get better. I needed lessons.

Remember: I’m cheap. Private swim lessons can cost hundreds of dollars. I’m also prideful, and didn’t want to get into a class with a bunch of five year olds. I knew they’d outswim me anyway.

After digging around online, I found a local rec center offering adult swim lessons. One hour a week, four lessons a month, for $32. Great success!

The lessons were exactly what I needed. The class rebuilt my form as if I were a kid, and once the instructor discovered my triathlon intentions, she showed me the backstroke, side stroke, and other “survival” tactics. She was obviously impressed by my swimming ability.

Regardless, after four lessons, I was able to comfortably swim continuously without stopping. It helped that I had a floaty between my legs to help simulate triathlon conditions, where I knew I would be wearing a wet suit (which is quite buoyant) and trying to avoid using your legs (which is why the floaty is placed between your thighs.)

I signed up for a second month of lessons, and tried to swim for 30-45 minutes at least once between lessons. I quickly got to the point where I could swim a mile or more. I wasn’t fast, but I didn’t care. I could do all three events of the triathlon!*

My next step was to start pairing exercises together, back to back, what triathletes call a “brick.” I also started to scout out races in my area. Much to my own disbelief, I was just about there. I was under 200 pounds for the first time since high school, my confidence was back along with my energy, and my wife and kids could tell the difference.

All it cost me to this point was less than $1000, and about five hours a week.

In my next post, I’ll explain what a river triathlon is and why picked one for my first, as well as how I started putting together bricks.

*-slowly and mediocrely, which was just fine

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