Nation's Tri blog

2010 Nation's Triathlon - Swim Practice

I hope that most of you are feeling more efficient in the water after working on your technique. Always keep in mind that it’s hard to change something you’ve been doing all along… change will come gradually but keep at it and you’ll get where you need to be. Here are some more things to think about regarding technique as well as additional drills you can do to maintain that technique.

Body Roll & Pull

Imagine yourself on surfboard. How do you paddle to get through the water? You probably don’t pull under your board, but on the side of the board, and you’re rotating your body in order to stay in line on the board and stay straight. Pulling under the board only pushes the water into the board, not past you.  The same concept goes for swimming. You don’t want to pull under your body, but on the side of your body, and you want to rotate your body from your shoulders down to your hips down to your toes.  Pulling under your body will cause you to push the water into yourself, and you won’t get anywhere. You want to push the water past you. Keep a straight wrist – your power should come at the beginning of the stroke, not at the end.  Aim for a high elbow catch under the water, like you are swimming over something dangerous and you don’t want to touch it. ( As your arm comes out of the water and you end your pull, allow your elbow to guide your hand to the front of the stroke again; don’t lunge forward with your hand.


Kicking for a triathlon is a little different than kicking for competitive swimming. You don’t want to use up all the energy in your legs so that you have something left for the bike and run. When kicking, you should aim to keep a steady 2-beat kick per roll. This means 2 kicks on the right, 2 kicks in the middle, 2 kicks on the left. Steady and constant, not super fast. Many of you on race day will be wearing a wet suit which will help with buoyancy and you may not need to kick much at all.


If you are confused by any drills, there are plenty of videos on Youtube to demonstrate drills.

Catch up

Catch drill is a great drill to slow down and focus on your pull-through, hand entry and body roll. Pull with one arm at a time and touch your hands in a streamlined position out front between each alternating arm stroke. Keep your extended hands about 8 inches under the surface of the water for improved body position. Concentrate on swimming in the front quadrant and keep a long, streamlined body line.


Great drill to think about high elbow, letting your elbow guide your hand, pink entry,  This drill is swimming normal Freestyle while dragging your fingertips along the surface of the water on the recovery. Focus on a high elbow recovery, which ensures proper hand and elbow position at your hand entry. You should also check your body position during this drill, focusing on good side-to-side rotation.

Catch up and Fingertip combined!

This is my favorite. I do this all the time since it combines the two drills – you get a double whammy!


Allows you to focus on the importance of your catch, with a straight wrist. Keep your hand in a complete fist and  concentrate on body position, using your forearm in the catch and optimum elbow bend through the stroke.


Perfect for getting used to sighting and strengthening your arms and hips for keeping your head up.  Swim normal freestyle. On every 5th stroke, raise your head straight forward and “sight” on an object off in the distance. You can place a target object or sight something already in place. After sighting the object, lower your head back into normal position. Practice maintaining a balanced stroke rhythm and rotation while clearly seeing the target object.

Kristen Avioli

A former Division One collegiate swimmer and record holder, Kristen completed her first triathlon in 2008 and fell in love with the sport immediately. Never a runner or cyclist and only running short distances to entertain her sister Natalie during marathons, she decided to get crankin’ on the tri train. Since 2008, she has completed 12 triathlons, including a half iron man, 8 half marathons, and two marathon, and now loves to run! She is a USAT Level 1 Certified Coach, Swim Coach, and Adjunct Faculty Member at George Washington University.