...Consistency is key!
Working and living in the triathlon world we are fully aware that for most people (but not all) coming into the sport, swimming will be the achilles heel, or the weaker of the three disciplines. There is a line we tend to hear quite often "I'm strong on the bike, I can run, but I'm way off with my swimming".
I'm going to come straight out with it - your fitness on the bike and run doesn't really stand for much when thinking about starting your swimming. However, all is not lost!! With a bit of hard graft you can get your swim performance on a par with your bike and run performance, making you a well rounded, balanced athlete.
How so? I hear you ask...
Back in 2010, a few years before triathlon and coaching came into my life, I had to swim a 400m time trial in under 8 minutes to qualify for a beach lifeguard qualification. 6 weeks away from a marathon and considering myself pretty fit, I went to the pool (as a confident non swimmer...) to swim my 400m to see what time I could hit. 50 metres in I was completely screwed, frustrated and exhausted! I was completely perplexed. How could I be so fit for running, yet struggle so much in the pool and fatigue so quickly? In a short space of time, I got some help on my freestyle technique and grafted 4 swims a week to get swim fit. I managed the swim in 7 minutes and qualified as a beach lifeguard.
Technique: It's definitely worthwhile getting your foundation and fundamental swim technique sound. For many beginner swimmers, it can be really frustrating - swimming is much more than moving your arms a bit and kicking a lot! Swimming is actually quite a technical art, so getting to grips with the movements, both in understanding and application will allow you to build and efficient stroke.
BUT... and there is a but... Technique is only one part of the jigsaw. it's great to swim with lovely pure beautiful technique, but what if you can't sustain it?
Unfortunately there is no escaping it - time in the water doing swim specific fitness training will make you a better swimmer. If you can team up your technical improvements with swim fitness gains, then you really will be onto a winner. In simple terms, if you swim twice a week, make one swim a technique focus and the other swim a fitness focus (sprints, pyramid, CSS training etc). If you are at the very beginning of your swim journey, challenge yourself to swim one length further than you did last week. Doesn't really matter what that extra length "looks like" as long as you get to the other end. Then the challenge becomes doing that length again but with better technique.
Remember, there is no magic pill; consistency, commitment, dedication and a sprinkling of coaching are all the ingredients you need!!