Triathlon Tips – Staying Mentally Strong 14 May 2019
We get a lot of triathletes into the clinic with various injuries and niggles. Many struggle with the swim aspect of the sport, primarily from a mental side as opposed to the fitness side. Many runners also often say ‘I would love to try triathlon, but hate the idea of the swim’. So here are a few tips for the mental side of swimming
Defeating the cold
Acclimatisation to the cold and swimming in cold water is key to your body getting use to it. If you are sensitive to the cold, start having cold showers before the event, timing yourself and increase it over time. Humans have swum in the artic and under ice, our bodies can do this, we just need to let the mind know too.
Do not have a hot shower before you enter the outside pool or lido, hot water can cool your core before you get in the water and can be dangerous
When you get in the water, everybody takes a big breath in (even those use to it), this sometimes turns into rapid breathing and for some, panic attacks. Don’t swim straight away (this increases your heart rate, when it’s just suddenly just shot up with the anxiety of getting in cold water), pause and take 3-4 deep, slow breaths and look around. Relax and enjoy the scenery, we often look at a lake but rarely look out from a lake. It’s a brilliantly, different viewpoint.
Wear the right fitting wetsuit. This should be tight, but should allow a thin layer of water to gradually seep between the wetsuit and the skin when you enter the water. If its baggy the water will flood in and feel baggy reducing your temperature much quicker.
As swims in the smaller triathlons are 750m to 1500m, hypothermia is very unlikely. You can wear Vaseline on your feet and hands if you are prone to feeling cold in your extremities. However, if you do consider this, also consider the issues you may face in transition getting your shoes, helmet and gloves on and your handling on the bike
Remember, if you train in cold water in April and May the temperature of the water will be warmer in June, July and August when most of the triathlons take place. It will feel like a doddle.
Reducing anxiety in the water on race day:
A lot is made of the standing start in the swim in triathlons and people swimming over you.
Remember the following:
Most people are like you, they do not want to swim over somebody or get swum over, by somebody. 99.9% of people just want to have a clean, open water, hassle free swim.
Know you can do the distance: take one aspect of the swimming anxiety away before your start by swimming the distance in the pool. Fitness, ticked!
Be prepared with race specific drills. For one of your drills, do a standing start with a group of friends and all swim towards one point at the other end of the pool or pond. It is often the splashing that gets people nervous more than the bodily contact itself. This drill, when done with friends its often a bit of a laugh and takes the anxiety out of it. Also purposely swim in busy lanes when you are training in the pool, to get more splash and waves coming at you. Ask friends to swim close to you on purpose or just infront of you. Mimic race conditions.
Position yourself according to your capability. If you are a fast, confident swimmer go at the front, if you are a weaker swimmer position yourself near the back (staying out of trouble allows you to catch the big chested swimmers on the bike or run anyway). Also consider the line that you take. The fastest line between A and B is in a straight line. However, you can start slightly wider of that line, to stay out of trouble, and just do a slightly longer distance instead.
Control your breathing. Stick to your breathing pattern when you swim. If you get a mouthful of water…..its only water. Our body is 70% water (depending on your age). Swallow it, spit it out, cough and carry on. If you have a splashing walrus at the side of you, breath on the other side until he gets infront of you or you drop him with your dolphin speed!
Safety is key to the organisers: Triathlon events are run very well and many organisers like livetotri that run Blenheim Triathlon and F3 events that run Marlow triathlon have done so for many years with 1000’s of competitors and have excellent safety marshals in place in the swim and on the course. They will cancel swims in the sea if too rough and will not let you swim without a wetsuit if the temperature is too cold. Its bad for their business if people aren’t safe.
We are blessed in this country with beautiful lakes and coastlines, enjoy them and enjoy the swim!!!
Good luck to the Kensal Rise Triathlon Team at Blenheim!