The first leg of a triathlon involves swimming anywhere from a half mile (0.8 kilometers) to just more than 2 miles (3.2 kilometers), depending on the race you've chosen.
To begin, get your hands on the right equipment for the swim. At the very minimum, you'll need a well-fitting swimsuit that's comfortable and not baggy and a good pair of goggles that fit your face and don't leak. You also might consider purchasing anti-fog solution to keep your goggles from clouding up, a swim cap and a wet suit (if the race takes place in colder water).
Once you have your gear, you'll want to focus on your swimming technique. Good technique produces efficiency, and efficiency will help you get farther and last longer in the race. That's why a large part of your triathlon preparation will include mastering proper technique in all three segments -- swimming, cycling and running. In swimming, there are three major technique areas to focus on: your stroke, your position in the water and your breathing.
- Stroke -- In most triathlons, there are no rules mandating which swim stroke to use, so go with whatever you find both comfortable and quick. Consult swimming websites, magazines or books for more details about proper form for each stroke.
- Position in the water -- In general, fight the urge to lift your head up while swimming. Keeping your head down pushes your feet up and helps keep you in the proper swimming position.
- Breathing -- Don't forget to breathe when you swim. To maintain your balance in the water and to avoid losing forward momentum, turn your whole body to take a breath instead of just lifting your head out of the water.
For a sprint triathlon, you should train in the pool about two or three times each week. Once you've mastered the moves for your chosen stroke, it's important to work on your endurance. Even in a sprint race -- the shortest of the triathlons -- you'll be swimming for about 15 to 20 minutes, so you should build up your stamina to allow you to swim for that long [source: Beginner Triathlete].
Now that you have a good idea of how to start preparing for the swim portion of a triathlon, it's time to get back on dry land. Keep reading to find out about training for the cycling portion of the race.