Don’t Let Fear of Swimming Get in Your Way

Have you fantasized about finishing a triathlon? Maybe you’ve visualized yourself crossing your first finish line, soaking up the crowd’s cheers, having the hard-earned medal hung around your neck, and finally walking away a proud triathlete. Maybe you have completed running events and are familiar with that feeling of accomplishment, but you have hesitated to pursue these three disciplines in a single day simply because you’re not quite sure how to get over the fear of swimming. Below are 5 tips and tricks to help you get over the fear.



 The inability or fear of swimming is at the top of the list why so many runners are reluctant to take the plunge in this exciting multi-sport world. However, fear can have a positive impact on your triathlon journey. Fearing the swim portion suggests that you respect this type of endurance event. And if you respect it, the chances are you won’t cut any corners as you put in the required work for a successful race day.



Fortunately, triathlon offers a variety of distances. Some are daunting and can take from sunrise to sunset to complete, but there are also those that only require an hour or two to finish. The swim portion in a Sprint Distance Triathlon is less than half a mile, in a Super Sprint it’s just over a quarter of a mile. If you select one of these two distances for your first event, you’re only looking at about ten to twenty minutes of swimming, depending on how much time you allow yourself to prepare.

If you at least completed a 5K run in the past, you have already proven that you are able to push yourself for that amount of time. The only difference is, here you will be horizontal while using different muscle groups to propel yourself forward.



There are also race options with an indoor pool swim where distance is irrelevant. You simply swim for ten minutes and move on to the next discipline. And yes, completing an indoor triathlon will qualify you for official triathlete status.

Starting small might be a wise first step for most beginners. The key is to stop the back and forth mind chatter and commit to an event. Then, with your race date selected, download a training program and head to the pool to get acquainted with water.

Although the most efficient way to learn the fundamentals of a proper swim stroke is by working with a coach, there are many athletes who build confidence by hopping in the pool and treading water for a few minutes.  Eventually they feel comfortable enough to follow the black line across the pool, and soon they are taking on multiple laps at a time. The comfort of having the bottom of the pool within reach encourages athletes to build their endurance and eventually swim far more than required on race day.



Once you feel comfortable enough to complete the required distance in the pool, you’ll be ready to test your new skill and fitness in the open water. Whether it’s a river, lake or the ocean, you will begin to realize that because you swim at the surface, the full depth of the body of water makes no difference in your effort. The excitement will build as fear subsides and what was once scary will now become a thrilling anticipation of a new adventure.



Study the course maps of any triathlon and you will notice the swim portion is only about 2-3% of the entire event. Don’t let this small segment be the reason why you deny yourself the full experience.  All athletes deal with fear at one point or another in their triathlon journey, regardless of their background or fitness level. It’s identifying your deep desire and going after your goal despite the fear that makes you a courageous athlete and the inevitable achievement that much sweeter. The only fear worth considering is the one of regret and never giving yourself a chance.