The Tri Newbie Chronicles: My First Adult Swim Class

Hi everyone!  Fun fact: training for a triathlon is HARD.  It’s literally 3 sports all rolled into one, and if you count transitions too you’ve got even more to learn, prep for, and worry about!  As a total tri newbie, I realized that it would be a good idea for me to write some posts from a newbie’s point of view on what the training process is like.  I’m calling it The Tri Newbie Chronicles, and I’ll try to post them once a week until my first tri in May!  Each week I’ll write about one thing I’ve learned/conqured/endured during my first tri training.

Tri Newbie Chronicles

This week, I’m starting out with the scariest thing I’ve done since signing up for the Gold Nugget Tri a few weeks ago: my very first swim lessons!  I’ve been a nervous mess about my minimal swimming skills since signing up for the GNT.  I took swim lessons when I was a little kid and officially learned how to swim by the end of elementary school, but since passing my swim test to gain access into the deep end of the Antietam Pool (aka where all the cool kids got to swim) I’ve been mostly doggy paddling and floating around whenever I swim.  Obviously I can’t do 500 yards of leisurely padding in the pool on race day, so I decided to sign up for 4 weeks of adult swim lessons at Alaska Pacific University.


Day one of swim class was on Tuesday, and I was nervous for a few days before the lesson.  I feel like my overall swimming form could be defined as “controlled flailing”, and while I knew I was comfortable in the water I was also embarrassed about my total lack of knowledge about swimming.  I showed up at 5:00 pm and was surprised to learn there were only two other girls in class with me!  They were also signed up for the GNT and it was their first tri as well, so I immediately felt a million times better about the lesson.  We had 2 instructors there for class, and I felt really comfortable knowing that they were going to be able to give me tons of feedback on my form.  Here’s how the class went down:

  • We had to do one lap of swimming right away so they could check out our form, AKA so they could see what they were working with.  I was told that I looked like I had swam before but needed some work on my form, which was a huge relief to me.
  • Our first lesson was to hold a kickboard out in front of us and work on kicking.  I learned that you want to kick using your whole leg instead of just your knees – kind of like kicking a soccer ball – and that the strength is coming from your hips.  I was excited to pick this up really fast and noticed a huge difference when I changed my kicking motion!
  • The next step was to put my head in the water while kicking.  This took some work since I apparently hold my head up a bit even when my face is in the water, so I worked on this for a while.  Breathing is harder than it looks!
  • At this point, my instructor told me that she was moving me a bit farther ahead than the other girls because my form was great and I was ready for it.  I was in shock because I’m never at the top of my class in anything I do, so that gave me a lot of confidence to try the next step:  face in the water, kicking strong, and also moving my arms with each breath I took – all with the kickboard of course.  I worked on that for probably 20 minutes and it was way tougher than it sounds.  I was out of breath many times, but it was so cool to realize that I was slowly getting the hang of putting everything together!

When class ended the other girls congratulated me on doing such a great job, and I was totally blown away by how well I’d done.  I want to remind everyone reading this that I have spent most of my life being the least athletic person in everything I do – from the time that I played middle school field hockey and was always JV, through my high school softball days (I was at second base half the time and the bench the rest of the time), to my brief stint on my sorority’s soccer team where I sat on the sidelines for all but 1 game, and even my years as a slow runner.  Even though I knew it was just me and two other newbie tri swimmers, I still was extremely proud of myself for doing so well and getting the hang of it so quickly.  This may never happen again in my life so I’m going to embrace this moment and use it to motivate myself to keep training!  I’m already looking forward to Thursday’s class!

img_0906So happy I decided to learn how to swim!

Overall, I highly recommend that any newbie swimmers take an adult swim class if possible.  I can tell it’s going to be worth the investment because I’m going to learn how to swim with correct form and also learn how to feel comfortable in a pool.  Plus it looks like I’ll be meeting some new training partners too!

Have you ever taken swim lessons as an adult?  What’s the one thing you were surprised to learn you didn’t totally suck at doing?

21 thoughts on “The Tri Newbie Chronicles: My First Adult Swim Class

  1. You are so freaking awesome! Running is my comfort zone and I don’t think I would ever be brave enough to sign up for a tri. The swimming is really intimidating, but then you go ahead and make it look so easy that I feel like I might need to reconsider. Congrats on being best in your swim class!

    1. Haha thanks! I thought running was my comfort zone too, but it turns out being injured for almost 5 months made me start to try new things! And I think with the right swim class and spin instructors you could definitely be able to do a tri. Let me know if you do!

  2. If I ever decide to do a tri, I’ll have to take swimming lessons because I can’t swim at all. Congrats on an awesome class! I’m looking forward to these posts. A triathlon is on my “maybe, someday” list.

    1. Thanks! You should totally do one, the training is actually a lot of fun! I really do think I was burning out on all the running I was doing, so the variations in my workouts is pretty awesome!

  3. Excellent! I probably won’t ever sign up for a tri, but some adult swimming lessons might be fun just so that I could use swimming as cross-training.

    1. Yes! It’s actually really fun and it’s definitely a tough workout. I’m really sore today! Plus it will help keep injuries away which is always a good thing.

    1. Yeah, mine looks okay but is lacking power so I can tell I’ll have to work on this forever. I’m anticipating that I’ll be slow because I need to stop to take a breath at every end of the pool! This is going to be an interesting race.

  4. Yay for swimming! So glad you had such a positive experience! Ahhhhh, I can’t wait for you to finish your first triathlon ❤

    1. Haha thanks! I’m still really nervous that I’m going to make a huge newbie mistake (and I don’t even want to talk about my ridiculous bike situation) but I’m definitely feeling more confident!

  5. This is really cool! I’ll look forward to reading about your experience training for a tri. I am a TERRIBLE swimmer. I would need like the best swim instructor in the world to fix my form. I think that is what would stop me from signing up for a tri.

    1. Haha I’m sure you’re not that bad! I haven’t actually swam in like 20 years so I’m glad I got these instructors so that they could teach me my form from scratch. I bet if you went to a super newbie group like mine where they teach you everything step by step you’d be able to get lots of help!

    1. Honestly it is super hard! So much to think about and I’m so exhausted after a few laps. But it’s kind of like learning proper running form – just under water 🙂

    1. I had practice #2 tonight and I can tell I’m going to need to go to bed early and that I’ll still be exhausted tomorrow morning! It’s exhausting but I really like it!

  6. hahaha, that quote is so true! 😛 Super proud of you for sticking with training (I’ve never trained for a triathlon and can only imagine how hard that must be!), and great job at your adult swim class! :D!

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