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Triathlon Training: Learning to Swim

Even though she doesn't swim, bike or run, this Peachtree Corners resident is training for her first triathlon in May. Follow her journey here weekly, every Thursday.

Like many children in the Midwest, I grew up with a pool in my backyard.  Even though I spent hours upon hours coated in baby oil in an effort to achieve the perfect tan, I can't say I truly used the pool for its real intent — swimming.

So, while I'm very comfortable in the water, I don't really know how to swim.

When I told my girls (8 and 5, who are swimmers on the Jones Bridge River Station swim team) that I was training for an Iron Girl triathlon, they beamed with pride and even asked if they could join me.

However, soon came the cautious comments, "But Mom, you don't swim.  You just walk kinda around the pool and talk to everyone. You don't like to get your face in the water."

Overall, although they were encouraging, they were right. I didn't have the heart to tell them that the swim portion of the event is one-third of a mile (the equivalent to 23 or so laps in a pool) and that it's in a seemingly bottomless lake (Lake Lanier).

So, I signed up for an adult swimming class at the , not realizing until the morning of the class that not only did I not have a pair of goggles, I didn't have an appropriate bathing suit.

If this is a sign of my preparedness for this event, I'd better get my act together and quickly.  I scrounged around and was able to show up in one of my Mom's old one-piece swim suits and a pair of goggles from the lost and found box, looking at least somewhat together. 

Four other women showed up — all around my age, all incredibly busy with children and jobs and other commitments.  All wanting to be Iron Girls.

I felt very fortunate to have a pool less than four minutes from my house to train in, already stocked with four women to train with, some of whom have the same apprehensions and lack of swimming experience.

We started by taking turns strutting our stuff.  I really didn't have any stuff to strut; I was just happy to have found a pair of goggles.

Molly, who just started practicing swimming a week ago, went first and as she glided effortlessly through the water doing what looked like perfect freestyle form to me, I said to Sonia, "Wow, that's what I hope to look like come race day."

The others followed one at a time — Sonia, then Tracey, then Rachael. They each made it all the way across the pool, using some form of freestyle stroke.

When it was my turn, I quickly asked for a kickboard, stating to the very patient instructor, "I should probably get my kick down first. Can you show me the right way?"

Situation diverted.  Temporarily anyway.

So I kicked with the board a couple of lengths, learning that the proper and efficient way to kick was with straight legs, pointed toes and with a minimal splash right at the water level.

I was already tired, realizing that my weekly yoga class and occasional pick-up volleyball play were not cutting it in the cardio department. My heart was beating at record speeds, and I hadn't even got my arms moving yet. 

The instructor then showed us proper arm stroke. I practiced the movements above the water while all the other women swam another lap.

Next came breathing. Ugh, I knew this moment would come. The stick-your-face-in-and-hope-you-don't-suck-in-a-gallon-of-water-moment.

I practiced one length with a kickboard. Face down (hey, this isn't all that bad!), kick-kick-kick, turn and breathe (wow, I did it!), kick-kick-kick, turn and breathe (really, am I still doing it?!?).

And then, practice was over and it was time to get out of the pool. While the other women were gathering up their things on the deck, I was determined to put all the pieces together I had learned that morning — legs kicking steadily at the surface, arching arms pulling me through the water, face down with my head turning every several strokes to breathe.

Finally, when no one was watching, I took my turn strutting my stuff. And I made it the whole length of the pool. Never mind that I probably looked like a clunky old car sputtering into the service shop and that I had a hard time catching my breath at the end. I did it. I am learning to swim. I will get stronger with each practice.

Now I just need to learn to ride a bike.

leib dodell January 13, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Hi . . . enjoyed your article, good luck with your training. Judging by your sense of humor, I think you might enjoy my book! Here's the link FYI: http://www.friesenpress.com/bookstore/title/119734000002341874
Nancy Minor January 14, 2012 at 04:23 PM
I think you should feel very proud and think how you will feel when you swim your 23 laps. By then you will be so strong you will want to double that.
Emeka January 14, 2012 at 10:24 PM
I ll keep posted with this link. I m newly married engineering professional from nj and planning to also do a triathalon in May. Last time i did any athletics was a 10K, 3 yrs ago. So we llmay keep posted and rooting for your further progress.
Robin Montri January 18, 2012 at 07:35 PM
Thanks everyone! Will be adding facebook comments as well...
Robin Montri January 18, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Pattie Baker via facebook: cute, cute article. this is gonna' be fun.
Robin Montri January 18, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Tracey Schell via facebook: Nice post, Robin! I think I'm swimming again on Saturday;)
Robin Montri January 18, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Rachael Wahl via facebook: Great post Robin!! This is going to be fun!! :)
Robin Montri January 18, 2012 at 07:37 PM
Ann Brooks via facebook: Great article Robin!! I've been thinking of doing a sprint tri in June so I will be reading and laughing every Thurs I'm sure :)
Robin Montri January 18, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Rebecca Barria via facebook: Nice article! This will be fun following your progress. I can't swim either.

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