Diane is a newbie triathlete, and I asked her a few questions about getting into the sport of triathlon and how she is dealing with her swimming phobia.
1. Diane, what was your motivation and circumstances around your decision to begin training for a triathlon?
Two years ago my sister-in-law invited my husband and I to watch her compete in her 2nd triathlon in Oregon.
We had not seen her in over a year and couldn’t believe how much she had changed. She lost 30 lbs. and was in better shape than she was in college.
She challenged me to give it a try, since I had taken up biking and had already been running as part of my workout routine.
2. So far, what are some of the challenges you’ve encountered in getting started?
One of my biggest challenges is deciding to truly commit to a triathlon.
My sister-in-law advised me to sign up and pay for a triathlon so that I will have invested something that costs me.
Also, I am new to swimming. I almost drowned as a child so I have had to overcome the phobia I feel when I am in deep water. I’m now 4 or 5 months out since I began and I definitely have more confidence and I am improving my freestyle technique.
3. As a beginner, what encouragement or advice would you pass along to a person who has just decided they want to take up the sport of triathlon?
Go and hang out at a Sprint or Olympic triathlon and see the variety of people who are there. You will be amazed at the diversity. Not all people who compete look like they came out of a magazine cover.
Also, have patience with yourself. I’m still trying to gain endurance in swimming and I get discouraged. But, I’m in there and that counts. Get around people who will encourage you… overcoming the doubts are a big challenge.
4. Training and competing in triathlons can be a grueling challenge, but what about triathlon do you most enjoy?
I love the sense of well-being after a workout!
I enjoy the sense of accomplishment when I’ve done a brick workout that I didn’t think I could finish.
My competition is to see what my body and mind can do at age 48. I guess I’m like alot of athletes who hope to be strong as they get older and not just poop out.
5. What are some of your triathlon goals?
Some of my goals are to:
Become a competent swimmer;
Overcome the open water phobia that is slowly developing (from talking to triathletes describing their first open water experience);
Develop a strong core;
And last but not least, get that first TRI under my belt!
(Oh, and of course not drown.)
Dealing With A Swimming Phobia
For your first 2 or 3 open water triathlons, do the shorter Sprint triathlon to build experience and confidence.
Find others you can do open water training with, or someone who will paddle around with you in a canoe or kayak during your swim.
Try to find a lake with a beach that has a long floating divider/barrier, and swim alongside it. You can swim up and down along the floating barrier, so it’s there if you need to grab a hold of it.
Try and learn at least one other stroke — like the breast stroke. The breast stroke is good because it helps you sight better and keeps your head out of the water a little more, which are both helpful and keeps you moving forward if you get flustered with your freestyle stroke. The breast stroke looks easy, but most people don’t know how to do it properly, and it will wear you out if you don’t.
I think the #1 way to build confidence if you have a swim phobia, (after you have worked on technique and built an endurance base) is to have someone follow you in a canoe. That puts you out in the open water but there is someone at arm’s length if you need them.
What will happen is that you will do the swim fine, and your confidence will take a big leap. It’s a mental thing, and once you see you can do it, you’ll be on your way!
I’m over 40 years old, but I don’t give up easily. It wasn’t too long ago that I was exploring the idea of doing my first triathlon. If I can do it, you can too! I'm proof that with a little determination and training, you can get a great deal of fulfillment participating in marathons, triathlons… even ultramarathons.