Improving your swim time in a triathlon can offer numerous benefits, but it also carries potential downsides. This might sound strange coming from a swim coach, but I encourage you to think carefully about focusing on reducing your time on the swim leg.

There are certainly advantages to swimming faster. Some triathletes get a psychological boost from exiting the water first and gaining an early lead in the race. Also, extra swimming is always beneficial for your fitness. However, if you’re a beginner triathlete – which is the type of athlete we help here – I suggest you focus on conserving energy during the swim leg. Your primary goal should be to finish the swim safely and with plenty of energy for the bike and run legs.

Here’s why: swimming makes up the smallest portion of the total triathlon time. Therefore, the time you might save in the swim could be less than the potential gains in cycling or running with the same investment in training.

But if you’re still determined to improve your swim time in the triathlon, here are a few ways that you can reduce time on the swim.

Work on your technique: As a frequent visitor to MyTriathlonSwim, you know that swim technique for beginner triathletes is our main focus. For beginner triathletes, there are several skills that will help you swim more efficiently. For instance, finding a neutral body position can make your swim easier and faster. Check out the Workouts section to download workouts for each of the essential skills for beginner triathletes.

Increase your strength: Specific strength training, especially focusing on your upper body and core, can enhance your power in the water. Resistance bands and weight training exercises for shoulders, back, and chest are particularly beneficial. If you haven’t already tried StretchCordz, you should. They assist in building swim strength, even when you can’t make it to the pool.

Improve your endurance: Include long swims in your training to build your aerobic capacity. Just like long runs for marathon training, long swims will help you develop the stamina needed for race day.

Practice in open water: If possible, practice in conditions similar to those you’ll face in your triathlon. Pool swimming is quite different from open water swimming. Dealing with waves, currents, sighting, and even swimming in a wetsuit are skills best learned through practice.

Include interval training: Similar to running and cycling, swimming intervals can significantly improve your speed. Most of our workouts include 10-15 seconds of rest, but I encourage you to find your personal time interval for a set. For example, if you’re swimming 6 x 100 yds with 15 seconds rest, and you complete the first 2 in 2 minutes for each 100, then complete the last 4 on a 2 minutes and 15 second interval. For more tips, read our article on swim interval training.

Master your breathing: Efficient and controlled breathing can improve your swimming rhythm and reduce fatigue. Practice bilateral breathing (breathing on both sides) to maintain balance and adaptability in the water.

Swim frequently: Consistency is key to improving your swim time. Most of the athletes we assist on this website initially dislike swimming. They will quickly forgo a pool swim for a ride or run. I understand this, but try to get in the water at least three times a week to see substantial improvement. I promise that you’ll eventually enjoy swimming, or at least not dislike it as much.

Stay relaxed: Maintaining a calm and relaxed demeanor during the swim will help conserve your energy for the rest of the race. Work on staying composed, especially during the start and in crowded situations.

Remember, your goal is to finish the swim leg with plenty of energy for the bike and run. But if you’re determined to reduce your swim time, don’t get discouraged if progress seems slow; consistently work on your efficiency and speed will come.

Good luck.