Article image

by Terry Heggy

March 28, 2014

How swimming with a Masters Swimming club can give you an edge

Every triathlete knows how important it is to have the right shoes, the right bike, and the right nutrition plan. We buy power meters and carbon fiber water bottle cages, and we practice for hours to shave every possible second off our transitions. But many triathletes are missing a great opportunity to find extra speed.

You may have watched swim teams practice and thought, “That’s not for me—I’m never going to do flip turns or race butterfly.” But swimming with a Masters Swimming club absolutely will make you a better triathlete. Here’s why.

1. Technique is critical

Triathletes know how important aerodynamics are on the bike, yet hardly think about the fact that water creates 1000 times more resistance than air. A few minor corrections in swimming form reduce drag far more than a redesigned bike frame could. A Masters coach can show you how to go faster and save energy by minimizing your bodyline as you swim.

2. Swimming other strokes in workout pays off

Fast swimming requires developing a “feel” for the water. Swimming other strokes (with proper coaching guidance) helps you learn to instinctively adjust your hydrodynamics (body position, hand angles, etc.) so you know how to get around buoys, deal with waves, and get the most thrust from your freestyle pull. Olympic triathlon bronze medalist Susan Williams says, “Other strokes teach you to move through water efficiently, and balance muscle development to avoid injury.”

3. Training without a wetsuit makes you faster

A wetsuit’s buoyancy can mitigate some stroke flaws, but you’re better off if you actually eliminate those flaws. Learning to swim efficiently without a wetsuit means you’ll use less energy on race day. “I love swimming in my wetsuit,” says Haley Benson, age-group winner at the 2013 Boulder 70.3, “but I’m more efficient because I’ve learned to swim well without it.”

4. Lanemates make you stronger

Benson says, “If you want to swim faster, then you have to swim with fast people.” Not only does friendly workout competition make you work harder, but you can also learn a lot about pacing, drafting, and race strategy from swimming in an organized group. You’ll also make friends who will become great training partners.

5. It’s good to have some fun

Triathletes do a lot of solo workouts, which requires mental focus that’s tough to maintain throughout the season. It’s a treat to delegate the planning and feedback responsibilities to your Masters Swimming coach, so you can just immerse yourself in the workout and enjoy it. A creative workout and a lane full of friends keeps swim practice from ever becoming boring.

6. Extra eyes mean extra speed

An online tri coach can write challenging sets, and a DVD might show you proper technique, but without direct feedback, you may not recognize your own energy-eating stroke flaws, much less know how to correct them. Williams says, “Small adjustments in hand angle or breathing can mean a minute or more in an Olympic tri swim. Swimming with a team helps you identify and lock in the right improvements to gain that speed.”

With these advantages in the arsenal, Masters swimmers show up at the triathlon start line with the extra confidence to dominate the race from the beginning.


  • Triathlon


  • Triathlon
  • Teams
  • Open Water