I've had a request.

A friend of mine is just about to do their first ever sprint triathlon and asked me for some advice.

I've never done one. I swim a little less like a brick than I used to, I never learned to ride a bike as a kid and 400 metres is the longest distance I've ever liked running. Some of you may think that renders me unqualified to help.

All the athletes that I have helped in all the sports I have never played seem to demonstrate otherwise so I'll just crack on with it.


Today, I'm going to give you one key tip to help you improve your swimming. It's so good, you'll want to get wet ASAP, as is this course I'm putting on in June.

Over the coming week or so, I'll give you key tips on upgrading the other two components of your training and racing.



I heard once from a top swimming coach that dolphins are around 80% efficient in the water. That means four fifths of the energy that they use translates into movement in their intended direction.

The average human swimmer is a little less efficient. Around 77% less efficient.

That means 97% of the energy we use while swimming actually propels us. That figure shocked me.

Top pro swimmers are apparently much closer to 12% efficient. 

A 400% higher efficiency means faster, more endurable swimming.

At the top level, he also said that competitors aren't separated by the power they generate but by tenths and hundredths of percentages in efficiency.

With that said, how can we become more efficient through the water?

Take a second to think about creatures and items that cut through the water effortlessly and you will eventually think across their long shape.

Think about a torpedo. It's a long cyclinder of sorts. A shorter, fatter torpedo of the same mass wouldn't glide so well.

Get longer and you will get more efficient. That's part of the reason why top swimmers are so tall with such long limbs and big feet.

Without some extremely extreme Gattaca-esque surgery, if you're an adult your anatomy won't grow to make you longer but you still can. Most of use our body in ways that shortens us or gives us "bad posture". Using our body this way, you will also not reach as far as you possibly can. This is easily addressed.

Learning to reach longer with your arms and legs can be simply done in the following way:

  • Laying on your back or front with your legs relaxed straight and your arms on the floor (as easily as you can) overhead, slowly reach with one arm and return to non-reaching many times, only reaching in a range where you can breath completely normally. Notice what parts of your body are involved in the reaching and coming  back. As you do this more, if you pay attention, you will probably find more of your body getting involved in the easy reaching.
  • Try the same with the other arm and then your legs. You can slide your heels away from you along the floor as if somebody was pulling your leg. Keep it all easy as you will only keep new reaching range that you can breathe easily within.
  • You can try the same with each arm in the standing position.

When doing freestyle in the water, imagine each stroke as a reach rather than a push down with your arm. It won't feel as forceful but get used to it and you will cut through that water faster.


See you for the bike soon. 


Arton "Tri, don't try" Baleci