Swimming 101 Graphic with centered picture

Welcome to Swimming 101. Have you always wanted to learn how to swim or do a triathlon, yet there was one big problem? You don’t know how to swim.

Have no fear! You can learn any age, even if you have never dipped your toe in a pool.

I attended my first lesson without goggles or a swim cap. I had a few “do not drown” lessons as a kid. Despite my lack of experience and fitness, with coaching, lessons, and drills, I was able to participate in and complete an Ironman 140.6 triathlon over two distances.

Swimming – Break the Barrier to Triathlon

The first step in becoming a swimmer is deciding that you want to learn. It is possible to learn how to swim even if you have never dipped your toe in a pool.

Swim Classes – Finding a Coach

Swimming can be scary if you have never done it before. Luckily, there are coaches out there who are more than thrilled to help you reach your goal of completing the swim portion of a triathlon.


Coach helping swimmer with head position

Here in the Phoenix metropolitan area, there are lots of resources. Here is a list of swim instructors in the area.

Swimming Lessons – Learning Technique

When it comes to swimming, proper techniques are key. Proper techniques will help you, as an athlete, swim more efficiently and save energy.

The great thing about triathlon is you can learn some strokes like Backstroke, Breaststroke, and Butterfly. Triathletes use the the Freestyle.

The Breaststroke or Backstroke will occasionally come in handy while sighting at an open water swim, but the team’ main stroke is Freestyle. Freestyle is also known as the front crawl.

How to Learn Swim Technique

There are a few simple steps to start. Remember, simple doesn’t mean easy. Even the best athletes take time to learn. There are a few schools that teach swimming techniques.

  1. Total Immersion – Learning to swim smarter, better, and faster.
  2. USA Swimming – Traditional swim school. Part of the US Olympic Committee.
  3. Pose Method Swimming – System of teaching human movement.


Breathing while standing is easy. Inhale, exhale, repeat. Breathing while swimming is a little harder. Poor air exchange can increase your heart rate and undermine your workout or race. Novice swimmers and even some elite athletes have problems with ineffective air exchange.

If you feel winded while swimming, this is not normal. There are things you can do to help prevent feeling like you will hyperventilate.

Inhale while swimming

Inhale during the pull phase of your stroke. Three good cures while inhaling.

  1. Ensure your head is in a neutral position. Do not strain your neck or tilt your head up or down.
  2. Keep one goggle in the water and one out.
  3. Keep your ear right against the shoulder of your extended arm.

Take in a deep inhalation. If you need multiple breaths in a pull phase, you likely take in too shallow of a breath and need more air.

Swimmer blowing bubbles
Exhale with head in the water

Exhale while swimming

When your face is in the water, exhale slowly. Do not hold your breath; it will throw off the timing of your stroke. Blow a steady stream of bubbles while your head is underwater as you count your strokes.

Swim Lessons and Workouts

Swimming is a great workout, but it can become monotonous if you continuously follow the same set of exercises.

here are 3 sets of simple swim workouts with drills for new swimmers:

Drill Workout 1

  • Warm-up:
    • 5 x 50 easy swim freestyle
    • 2 x 25 kick with a board, alternating between freestyle and breaststroke
  • Drill:
    • 2 x 50 fingertip drag, focusing on keeping your elbows high and your body in a straight line
  • Main set:
    • 6 x 50 freestyle, focusing on smooth, controlled strokes
    • 200 easy swim freestyle
  • Cool-down:
    • 5 x 25 easy swim freestyle

Form Workout Workout 2

  • Warm-up:
    • 5 x 50 easy swim freestyle
    • 2 x 25 kick with a board, alternating between freestyle and backstroke
  • Drill:
    • 2 x 50 single-arm freestyle, focusing on maintaining good body position and a strong catch
  • Main set:
    • 4 x 100 freestyle, building your pace from easy to moderate over the 4 lengths
    • 200 easy swim freestyle
  • Cool-down:
    • 5 x 25 easy swim freestyle

Speed Workout 3

  • Warm-up:
    • 5 x 50 easy swim freestyle
    • 2 x 25 kick with a board, alternating between freestyle and butterfly
  • Drill:
    • 2 x 50 catch-up freestyle, focusing on reaching forward and catching the water with your leading hand
  • Main set:
    • 3 x 200 freestyle, alternating between easy and moderate pace
    • 100 easy swim freestyle
  • Cool-down:
    • 5 x 25 easy swim freestyle

These are just a few examples of simple workouts you can do as a beginner. As you get more comfortable in the water, you can add more drills and longer sets to your workouts. And if you have any questions or concerns, be sure to ask your coach for help.

Make sure to incorporate different workout types, such as speed or interval training, distance swimming, and endurance training. Mix it with pool toys, like a buoy or a kickboard, to help improve your swimming skills and keep things interesting.

Water Safety

Always putting safety first, whether you are a new swimmer. Take lessons to get the basics of swimming.

Stay in the pool’s shallow end until you are comfortable. Swim where there is a lifeguard around to help in the event of an emergency and to prevent drowning if you panic.

Swimming Gear 101

When you start something new, you don’t know what you don’t know. Here is a list of some swim gear to get started with swimming.

What to Wear Gear list

  • Swimsuit – Pick a streamlined suit to reduce drag. These suits won’t have any buckles or ruffles. Your times will thank you later. Get a suit that fits snugly to the body to avoid drag.
  • Goggles – allow you to see where you are going and protect your eyes from chlorine.
  • Swim caps – Keeps your hair out of your face and makes you more streamlined in the water.

Training Aids Gear List

  • Pull Buoys
  • Paddles
  • Kickboard
  • Open Water Buoy
  • GPS Watch to Record Workout

Frequently Asked Questions?

How far do I need to Learn to swim for a triathlon?

There are two types of triathlons, short-course triathlons, and long-course triathlons.

Short-course triathlons are Olympic distance triathlons or shorter. A typical sprint triathlon has a 750-meters, and an Olympic has a 1500-meter swim.

Long course triathlons which include an Ironman and Half Ironman distances. The swims are 2.4 miles and 1.2 miles, respectively.

Pools near me?

A Google or Yelp search should show you where local swimming pools are available. If no pools are around, check for open water swims in your area. Many local triathlon or swimming clubs post regular open water swims.

Is it difficult to learn swimming for adults?

You can learn in weeks for adults who are not afraid of the water. If you fear the water, it can take much longer. Swimming can be a lifesaving skill. Even if you are not planning a triathlon, learning how to swim is good.

How many months does it take to learn swimming for adults?

Swimming fast can take as little as one month or a year or more to compete in a swim meet.

Is it too late to learn to Learn to swim at 40?

It is always possible to learn. From 2 to 92, you can learn how to swim. If you are in your 30’s, 40’s, 50’s or older, you can still learn.

Why can’t some adults swim?

Fear of the water is one reason why some adults never learn. That doesn’t mean they can’t learn. The first step is wanting to learn how to swim.

What is the hardest part about learning how to swim?

Learning how to breathe properly and sync your breath to your stroke.

Is swimming good for weight loss?

Swimming can help with fat loss by building lean muscle mass. Quality nutrition, sleep, and stress management help with hormones, therefor, they also help with weight loss.

Can I learn to by myself?

You can learn to swim on your own. But can be challenging without instruction from a coach or a class.


Swimming as a beginner may seem daunting initially, but a positive attitude and commitment to practice can become a fantastic workout you look forward to.

Remember to have fun and be patient with yourself as you learn the sport. Other athletes, just like you, were not swimmers as children. They learned to swim as adults with time, patience, and practice. Want support? Join our Club!

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