If you want to start swimming or complete your first triathlon in 2017 but are intimidated by the pool, read this!

My Pinterest account is completely neglected.

I don’t really know what I’m doing with it, and I know I need to devote some serious time to it.

It’s on my list of goals for 2017.

Even being a total joke, I have one pin that gets repinned multiple times a day.

Especially now that it’s the new year and people are motivated to turn over a new leaf.

It’s a one mile swim workout.

I’ve been thinking about this for a while. If there’s something I know a lot about, it’s swimming.

Yet I rarely write about it.

So I thought I’d share a couple words of wisdom and give you a quick swimming tutorial.

Because I believe that swimming is one of the best workouts you can give your body.

It’s a great cardio workout, but it’s also much gentler on your body than running is, and it gives your entire body a workout, as opposed to a spin class that really just works your legs.

I know if you aren’t a swimmer, getting in the pool for the first time can be a pretty intimidating thing.

Forget the fact that you may not feel totally comfortable in a bathing suit.

There is also the fact that you might not know how things work once you step on the pool deck, you are convinced everyone else in the pool will be a former Olympic swimmer, you are afraid the people who do know what is going on won’t be very nice to you, and you are wondering if you are going to make a fool out of yourself.

I can tell you that this has been my experience with cyclists.

They can be pretty brutal.

They are intimidating and they will tell you to get the fuck out of their way and they will definitely tell you what you are doing wrong.

I know part of it is because riding on the road with cars zooming by is dangerous.

But still.

Cyclists, in my experience, can be pretty nasty.

This is not the case with swimmers.

In fact, experienced swimmers are the coolest people in the pool.

They will share a lane with you and if they are fifty times faster than you, they will just swim around you.

You don’t need to worry about them at all.


So in most pools when there is lap swimming, if there is one person already in a lane, you ask them if you can share the lane with them. They will move over and swim on one side while you swim on the other side.

When there are more than two people in a lane, you are supposed to do what is called circle swimming.

This is what people on the swim team do.

You swim down on the right side of the lane and back on the left side.  So you are swimming in a circle (really a super big oblong oval) in your lane. It’s just like you are driving on the road.

Experienced swimmers are used to circle swimming. They will swim with multiple people in a lane without hesitation. If they are much fast than you, they will swim around you when they catch up to you and they will alter their workout or speed to make things work. They don’t mind.

It’s the non-experienced swimmers who are much more likely to give you a hard time. They don’t like to circle swim because they have never done it that way, and they want to go along at whatever pace they feel comfortable with without having to worry about anyone else bothering them.

Some pools are good about enforcing circle swimming when there are a lot of people who want to swim.

Other pools, not so much.  And swimmers will end up standing at the end of the pool, waiting for someone else to finish swimming, and jump in as soon as they see an open spot.

So my first suggestion for novice swimmers and triathletes is to go to the pool before you swim and talk to the lifeguards. Ask them when the least busy times of day are at the pool and try to go then if you can.

Next, if you know someone who is a good swimmer, ask them to go with you to the pool. They will show you the ropes, and they will not care how slow you are or how you look in a bathing suit. They will just be happy to help you out!

Once you get your butt in a lane, here is the next thing.

Swimming cane be pretty fucking boring.

Your face is in the water. You can’t talk to anyone, and you can’t even breathe whenever the hell you want to.

While they do make some sort of iPod or something that is waterproof, nobody ever really uses those. So you can’t listen to music or anything to distract you like you do when you run or when you are in a spin class.

So if you get past the intimidation factor, then you have to deal with the boredom factor.

This is where swimming with a buddy is helpful if you can swing it.

You may not be able to talk to each other like you would if you were going for a walk or a run, but at least you are getting through the workout together!

For me, when I’m swimming alone though, the quiet is nice. It’s sort of like a meditation in water.

Even still, there is only so long you can go back and forth in a pool with your face in the water.

And I see a lot of people get in the pool and just swim non-stop for thirty minutes or an hour.


Now that is boring.

People on the swim team don’t get into the pool and just swim non-stop for two hours.

Practice is broken up into sets.

Swim practices are similar to a Tabata class or a HIIT workout where you do a certain number of reps of a particular exercise for a certain amount of time.

Next thing.

Most pools are 25 yards long.

1 length of the pool = 25 yards

2 lengths = 50 yards

4 lengths = 100 yards


On the swim team, if I want my swimmers to swim one length of backstroke, I tell them to swim a 25 back.

If I want them to swim 4 lengths of butterfly, I’d tell them to swim a 100 fly.

If I want them to swim twenty lengths of freestyle, I tell them to swim a 500 free.

You catch my drift.

So most swim practices are broken up into several sets of different distances, where you have a certain amount of time (an interval) in which to swim that distance.

That’s way more fun to get through than swimming non-stop for a half hour or an hour!

Plus, when you break up your swim workout into different reps of different distances, you can increase the intensity of those reps, and you get more out of your workout than swimming back and forth for  thirty minutes at a moderate pace.

Okay. So all that being said, below is a half mile swim workout for you.

Oh yeah. One more thing.

Technically a mile is 1760 yards.

This does not translate to an exact number of lengths of a 25 yard pool. And I don’t have the energy or desire to explain it specifically, so I’ll just cut to the chase and tell you that in competitive swimming, the “mile” event in swimming is 1650 yards. That’s 66 lengths of the pool.

It’s not technically a mile.

But that’s what we’ll call it.

The workout I have here for you today is 8oo yards, and it’s a great place to start if you are new to swimming:


Give it a try!

For a new swimmer, this will probably take you around twenty – thirty minutes to complete, depending on your speed.

The total distance is 800 yards, which is the same distance you swim in a sprint triathlon.

Stay tuned for more swim workouts! I’m hoping to post a new one each week where we will build up the distances you swim at once.

Now go pack your swim bag. Because you are ready to get your butt in the pool!



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2 replies
  1. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    Perfect. I signed up for swim lessons that start Thursday. Between this post and the kast one on swimming (outside your comfort zone ) I think I’m ready. Perfect timing.

  2. Josey Swanson
    Josey Swanson says:

    This is perfect. I just signed up for my second Almost) Sprint Tri. I did it last year, 3 months after finishing chemo and came in 2nd to last. I am so excited to do better this year! I started my running training 2 weeks ago and was going to start my swim this week. Thanks so much for the encouragement and the practice schedule!!


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