DON’T Do These in Triathlon Swimming

Coach Gerry Rodriguez of Tower26 in Southern California without a doubt is one of the foremost experts in the world of open water swimming.  Hailing from the island of Trinidad, Gerry began swimming at age seven.  He has won numerous Masters national titles, a few world Masters titles while achieving national and world Masters records, a 28.5-mile swim around Manhattan Island. He now focuses on coaching some of the world’s best triathletes and open water swimmers.  Below is a piece written by Coach Gerry Rodriguez that we have been given permission to share with our Fit Endurance readers.

Written by: Gerry Rodriguez

Visit the Tower26 Website


DON’T ……
1. Breathe every 3rd stroke or higher.
2. Hold your breath before expulsion.
3. Breathe through your nose.
4. Take short, shallow breaths.
5. Linger while taking a breath.
6. Focus on front quadrant or catch-up style swimming.
7. Over rotate with hips.
8. Have low strokes rates.
9. Glide.
10. Be “loose” in the water.
11. Be a “scrunchy” swimmer. ie. look like a fetus.
12. Have a BIG focus on Distance Per Stroke (DPS).
13. Focus on least strokes across the pool.
14. Cup your hands.
15. “Salute” by placing your hand close to your forehead at entry.
16. Swim with straight arms under water.
17. Have your hands cross your mid-line underwater.
18. Have your hands enter of pull outside your shoulder line.
19. Have your elbow BELOW your wrist/hand underwater.
20. Pet the “kitty” underwater, ie. Don’t have a floppy, gentle or loose hand underwater.
21. Do the “S” stroke.
22. Cut your stroke short at the finish.
23. Do most pool swimming drills.
24. Do Sculling.
25. Focus on kicking harder.
26. Ignore using an ankle strap or swim snorkel.
27. Think working on technique solves it all.

Think this is all there is ………

The most important element of swim technique is tautness! The opposite of #10.


DON’T ……
1. Train at one speed only.
2. Swim straight workouts.
3. Swim in open water ONLY.
4. Swim long, non-stop open water sessions ONLY.
5. Have your main swim set(s) less than 50% of your workout time.
6. Not vary your workout composition.
7. Follow what Andy Potts does or ANY faster known swimmer/triathlete.
8. Follow instruction from Michael Phelps’ coach. Would you listen to Usain Bolt’s coach?
9. Wait until 3-4 weeks before your race to swim.
10. Eliminate warm-up or have small ones.
11. Forget to incorporate FAST swimming in EVERY workout. (May differ for some pros).
12. Wear fins in your main swim set.
13. Always use your pull buoy.
14. Wear BIG hand paddles. (Especially the pros who can’t drive them correctly).
15. Run or ride before KEY swim workouts.
16. Think just building your “engine” only will make you improve.
17. Think MORE is always better.
18. Train just HARD every day.
The most important element of training is consistency!


DON’T ……
1. Race in a wetsuit or goggles without testing them first.
2. Use a wetsuit too tight in the shoulders.
3. Race without a proper warm-up. (Everyone, pros alike are guilty of this).
4. State to self: “I just need to get to my bike”.
5. Start in front if NOT a fast swimmer.
6. Sprint the start IF not prepared for such.
7. Be afraid of a rip current at the start.
8. Emphasize drafting. (Can be different for SOME pros).
9. Forget to sight FREQUENTLY.
10. Sight “water-polo” style. (May be different for SOME pros).
11. Just follow the person in front of you.
12. Swim in the middle of the pack.
13. Breathe every 3rd stroke.
14. Tap feet unless you want a broken nose.
15. Swim with pool-polished strokes in choppy conditions.
16. ONLY measure your improvement by time.
17. Ignore the 1-body length rule (mainly for elite athletes).
The most important element of racing is experience. Race to “Be Race Ready”.


DON’T ……
1. Think you can improve your swim on your own.
2. Hire a coach without specific triathlon swim/swim coaching experience.
3. Listen to fast swimmers on technique, unless they understand open water needs (MOST don’t).
4. Expect pool coaches to know much about open water technique for triathletes. They don’t.
5. Think any coach knows it ALL.
*6. Hire a coach just because they have a coaching credential OR coached some named athlete.
7. Hire a coach if swimming is neither their strength nor yours (btw – same applies to bike and run).
8. Hire a coach who can’t/won’t explain why they prescribe their training.
9. Hire a coach who thinks there is ONLY one training route (theirs) to performance.
10. Put stock in coaches who state swim is not important. The sport is S-B-R!
11. Only swim in a Masters group if there isn’t a focus for triathletes.
12. Forget to thank your coach – some still do it for free.

The most important element to learning is finding the right teacher/coach for you! But, they MUST have honed their craft. There’s an ‘ole adage: Did the coach make the athlete, or, did the athlete make the coach? *(#6). Make sure the answer is the former. Review ALL their athletes, and then look for development and evolution of performance across the group. Low athlete turnover is also a strong indicator.

The best coaches continue their knowledge quest, admitting what they know presently may very well change with more information. These coaches will allow their athletes’ exposure to other coaches especially when the coach may have limited experience as a former swimmer, swim/triathlon coach, and time at the craft (how much time? At least 10-15 years). Here are a handful of coaches worth following for TRIATHLON swim specifics: Matt Dixon; Brett Sutton (follow the substance); Joel Filliol; Mike Collins; Jim Vance; Swim Smooth; Sara McLarty. They are many others.


DON’T ……
1. Read or follow non-proven coaching instruction.
2. Watch You Tube swimming.
3. Buy a wetsuit based on price OR endorsement.
4. Think a swim lesson, clinic, camp or short training block in itself will make a difference.


DON’T ……
1. Think you can be competitive (front pack) on less than 30k a week without a prior swim background.
3. Train your swim sessions like your bike or run sessions.
3. Run or bike before a KEY swim session.
*4. Race without a proper warm-up. Little has changed here in 31 years since watching my first tri; shocking actually.
5. Waste your time swimming Andy Potts’ workouts. You’re not him.
*6. Skip acquiring open water skills, no matter how fast you are. Many lack these.
7. Do all your swim training in a pool.
8. Train your strength more IF swim is your weakness.
*9. Over rest your swim going into a race unless a competitive swimmer.
*10. Wear those HUGE paddles. Not even some elite swimmers can drive them correctly.
11. Do the “S” stroke.
*12. Breathe every 3rd stroke or higher in a race.

Good luck in your quest for improvement. Gerry Rodrigues.

3 thoughts on “DON’T Do These in Triathlon Swimming

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