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There are a number of ways to swim, but unless you're Olympian Michael Phelps, you'll be swimming
freestyle. While proper freestyle technique is relatively simple compared with the butterfly, almost
all beginning triathletes need to get feedback on their stroke from a knowledgeable observer. "Find
a local swim coach or a friend who is a good swimmer, and ask if they would look at your stroke," says
Siri Lindley, a former triathlon world champion and now a coach in Boulder, Colorado. Tips from a
keen observer will save you weeks of struggling on your own.
Experts also advise beginning swimmers to forget about speed at first. "Swimming slowly is the
best way to develop habits of efficiency and economy," says Laughlin. Instead of trying to get
across the pool faster, count your strokes per lap and try to reduce the number.
Drills can also help you improve your swimming technique because they allow you to break
down the freestyle stroke into parts, so you can focus on improving one or two aspects at a time.
Lance Watson, a Canadian triathlon coach, recommends a drill he calls the "Pause One" to
improve body rotation. To perform this drill, swim freestyle, but pause for one second after each
stroke in a fully rotated position, with one arm extended ahead of you. To learn other drills, consult
a coach; books such as Total
Immersion (Fireside, 2004), by Terry Laughlin; or videos such as Swim
Power (Total Training).