Tag Archives: triathlon

Learning to Swim for Triathlons: Stroke

When I was born, my grandpa asked my parents where I was going to learn how to swim.

“Um, I don’t know. How do we teach her how to talk, how to walk, how to become a decent person when she grows up?” was probably the answer.

And so, my kind grandfather built a pool in his backyard (which, he obviously got just a little bit of use out of, too) and I took swimming lessons there growing up. Both the informal ones, from him, and formal ones, from an instructor with all of my little friends.

I did half a season of swim team in high school…until I got into a car accident with my friend and temporarily jacked up my shoulder.

All of this is to say I thought I knew how to swim, until I started swimming as an adult a few years ago at Equinox. The lifeguard kept asking if I wanted pointers on my stroke, which was both embarrassing and helpful. A kind reader, Allie, read about this and asked if I wanted her to give me some swim tips. YES! 

That was three years ago, and now I am training to swim 1.2 miles.

As luck would have it, I got a lovely email from Wendy, who does PR for NYHRC, asking if I wanted a swim lesson.

YES PLEASE! My coach has been giving me some drills and form tips, but she’s in Maine and I’m in NYC.

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I met up with the lovely Sam Cardona, who is an Ironman and the director of corporate wellness at NYHRC. Pretty sure he’s also going to be my triathlon angel. He gave me this NYHRC swim cap and said it would magically make me faster. DEAL.

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I jumped in, and he filmed me swimming down and back. Which wasn’t at all stressful, of course.

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We sat and watched the footage, and it was BAD, Y’ALL. Which just gave me hope that I have plenty of room to improve before my HIM.

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To say Sam was hands-on was an understatement. He literally hopped in the pool with me to help me work on my stroke.

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This is me trying to wiggle my way out of the pool and back to running, which is so much easier.

Sam demonstrated thinking of my arm like a zipper. Extend the arm straight out, he said, catch the water, then pull alongside your body. Use a high elbow as you bring your arm out of the water. As you can see above, he’s basically using his arm as a lever as he brings it out of the water. I’m not quite sure what I was doing before, but it sure as hell wasn’t that. We also used those swim paddles to practice really cupping my hand to go through the water faster.

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We also used pull buoys so that I could get a feel for what it was like to really rotate properly from my hips.

Honestly, even one of these changes would have really helped my form, but everything together makes me feel so much faster already.

I told him how I’d felt panicky in open water and how I was frequently out of breath despite thinking I was in pretty good shape. I’d been breathing every four strokes, and we changed to every two strokes, focusing on really just turning my head rather than picking my head up and then turning and breathing. 

The one phrase that got me giggling and has stuck with me since is “Swim with the fishies.” By this, he means to look at the bottom of the pool, which prevents your feet from lowering.

Check it out! (This is with pull buoy.)


Any more swim tips for me, or anything else you’d like to know? I have another lesson with Sam tomorrow and can pass on any of your questions! 

Facing Fitness Fears with Propel: Clipping In

Disclaimer: This post is sponsored by FitFluential on behalf of Propel. I was compensated and all opinions are 100% my own.

I’m currently training for several triathlons. I’d burnt myself out on pushing myself in marathons for time, and I needed a new challenge. At least right now, a marathon doesn’t sound fun and exciting, and I strive to keep my workouts fun.

As you know, I’m a Propel Ambassador, which means I have more Propel at my apartment than I previously knew what to do with. Now, my training volume can match my workout water volume!

Hydration is key in endurance sports, and my stomach can’t handle traditional sports drinks, so Propel is perfect to give me water and some vitamins without extra sugar.

I’ve done several triathlons before, but I didn’t train much for them. I swam a bit, took spin classes for the bike and…well, didn’t do anything different for the run. That’s my jam, baby.

This year, I’m taking my training a little more seriously since it’s my main race/sport for the year instead of something I do to break up my training.

This = totally serious training, no?


For those first few triathlons, I vowed to never clip into a bike. That is SCARY, and that’s something real triathletes do. I’m not a real triathlete. I can’t do that. I don’t need to do that.

Just like if you run, you’re a real runner, if you compete in a triathlon, you’re a real triathlete.

But this year, I decided I needed to face that fear. I know how clipping in at spin class gives me a better workout, allowing me to challenge my quads and calves to spin harder, rather than work harder to stay in the pedal cages. So I imagined the benefits would be similar on a bike that, you know, moves. I’m not a very strong cyclist, so I need all the help I can get.

A few weeks ago, I met my friend Shannon in Central Park for a little lesson.

You see that goofy drawstring bag on my back? I hate those bags with the fire of a thousand suns, but it was the perfect size to hold my bike shoes as I rode uptown through city streets to the park.

Shannon had recommended I buy pedals that had clips on one side and were regular pedals on the other side, which ended being a really good recommendation. If you’re an urban cyclist who’s not super familiar with clipping in, I think these pedals will save your life.

I met up with her, put on the shoes, and it was time to clip in.

Wait, crap. No. I don’t want to do this.

We met at the 72nd Street Transverse, and she had me first clip in while holding on to a wall. I looked up at her “okay! Not too bad.”

“Now, move.”


I rode approximately one foot and grabbed onto the wall again.

“Okay, what about you ride with one foot clipped in and get comfortable with that?”

That sounded like a perfect compromise, so I did that for a bit, riding back and forth across the transverse, feeling like a giant child in a 31-year-old’s body. (Oh wait, that’s how I usually feel.)

“Okay, what about both feet?”

DONE. I’d built up my confidence by the silly-feeling riding back and forth, and I was ready to roll.

I clipped my other foot in, and started riding back towards her.

I rode about 20 or 30 feet, and then practiced unclipping.

That, of course, is the scary part. It’s not actually that scary to clip in, it’s the idea of getting out and the fear you might not be able to.

YOU GUYS. It’s so much easier to unclip from a real bike than a stationary bike. I was so pleasantly surprised.

We rode for about an hour, and I am pleased to report I did not die. There was one incident where a big family crossed our path. Usually I’ll yell out “on your left!” or “on your right!” if I am passing someone closely, but these people were on both sides, and I panicked and forgot my words and immediately played out in my head how I was about to crash into this family.

“Heads up!” Shannon yelled. Oh yeah, that. Right.

I survived! I’m still working on drinking and riding, ESPECIALLY when clipped in, but I guzzled Propel the second I unclipped.

I’m still waiting for someone to teach me the secret handshake of the Society of Those Who Clip In To Their Bikes, though.

What fitness fears have you faced recently? Are you part of the Society of Those Who Clip In To Their Bikes?