What sessions should I do when its not possible for me to swim with the club?
A simple excel sheet of sessions can be found here that might be of interest. They work by you submitting your best times for a set of distances and then following the sessions with the interval times. These sessions attempt to provide some focus / direction but naturally won't ever replace a coach on the bank watching your stroke, altering the session (making it harder as well as easier) or the challenge of swimming within a group in a lane at a club session.
What gear do I need to get started?
The obvious to begin with is a swim suit. Then swim hat and goggles. Also, some amount of patience will be of use. It can take time to learn how to swim and even longer to improve. Patience and persistence are fairly useful things to throw into the swim bag when starting out. For males there are many choices when it comes to swim suits - there are still many colours and designs available - but its best to avoid long or heavy shorts that will weigh or drag your hips down in the water. Kick boards and pull buoys are useful and relatively inexpensive and if complimenting your club swim sessions with your own swim sessions they are handy things to have in the bag. Paddles, gloves, fins, snorkels, plastic shark fin all have their place but wouldn’t feature in the 'must-have' list of things to have when starting out. Okay, okay... we're not unreasonable people, get a shark fin, they're endless fun.
What is the best type of goggles?
There is a wide choice of goggles available to choose from. Get a pair that fit you, are comfortable and that don't break the bank. One pair should work fine for pool swimming. If you find a brand/goggle that you like then maybe investing in a couple of pairs (one with a bright, clear lens and the other with a shaded lens) to use when swimming in the open water will make sense and help to swim in the right direction come race day. There is no such thing as a pair of goggles that never fog up. If you look after lenses and avoid scratching them then cleaning them out with a bit of spit before a race should work just fine.
How do I get faster?
The simple answer is one or both of the following: swim more and/or swim more effectively. It is also sensible to stick with one coach or teacher when starting out since its difficult as a swimmer to take instruction regarding your stroke from more than one person and those people may see different things in your stroke that they are trying to help you with. Doing the wrong things regularly may very well help with your swim fitness but having someone take a look at your stroke on a regular basis is invaluable for all swimmers, irrespective of the level that they are at. With swimming there are certainly eureka moments but on our experiences there are no silver bullets (if someone finds one please please write a book and share the profits). The closest thing is trying to enjoy the journey to ensure you keep swimming !
Do I need a wetsuit to get started?
The answer to this is no, there are several pool based triathlons on the calendar and these do not allow wetsuits. Anyone can participate in one in their swim togs. However, most people will invest in a tri suit or shorts than can be worn during the swim, bike and run during the event. ITU rules state that for Age Group athletes, wetsuits are forbidden above degrees 22 degrees Celsius, or 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit, for 750- and 1500-meter swims. For 3000- and 4000-meter swims, they are forbidden in water above 23 and 24 degrees Celsius, or 73.4 and 75.2 degrees Fahrenheit, respectively. Suits are mandatory for all distances in water temperatures below 14 degrees Celsius, or 57.2 degrees Fahrenheit. Until global warming really does kick in wetsuits are mandatory for all open water based races in Ireland.
What type of wetsuit do I need?
When starting out and the costs seem to be adding up, any wetsuit will do. Surf wetsuits differ from swim wetsuits (that are commonly used in triathlons) in that they work to keep the body warm by trapping a layer of water around the body and letting body heat warm it up. A swim wetsuit works by keeping the cold water out and typically consists of a number of panels that facilitate swimming. They are more flexible and provide much more buoyancy than a surf wetsuit. Keep in mind that there is always a trade off by suit manufacturers between buoyancy, flexibility, and durability. Depending on how experience or strong a swimmer you are some suits will (excuse the pun) suit you more than others.
Is my wetsuit too small for me?
Let’s immediately dispel the urban legend that wetsuits shrink over the winter when stored! It is no harm submerging it in water if possible for an hour or two after its hibernation for the winter and then leaving it to dry. The fit of your wetsuit is the single most important feature of the suit. An expensive ill-fitting suit is more likely to slow you down than doing what it says on the tin. The rule of thumb to employ is if you can zip up your suit yourself then it's likely that its on the large size for you. It should feel like a second skin and allow you lots of mobility in the shoulders and arms since this is key ... well, to swimming. If wearing one for the first time, people often feel a little restricted and in some cases claustrophobic. Wetsuits feel awful to wear when not in the water so don't be alarmed. A few things to remember if trying on a wetsuit include: stick two plastic bags on your feet since it'll make it a lot easier to get your feet where they need to be, wear your socks on your hands to avoid creating small tears in the suit you're trying on and NEVER EVER EVER go trying on wetsuits with a hangover.
'Body Glide' and 'Black witch'?
'Body glide' is a lubricant that can be applied directly to the skin to stop painful rubbing. Applied liberally to the neck before donning your wetsuit may go some ways to avoiding the painful and often embarrassing scenario of explaining that you do triathlons at the weekend and are not into some strange 'stuff' that causes overtly obvious red marks around your neck. (I wonder if there are people into that utilising the 'No, I do triathlons at the weekend' excuse?). Body glide (and sometimes baby oil) can be applied to calves, ankles, wrists to help with getting the suit off quickly.
'Black Witch' is a neoprene glue designed for use when repairing wetsuits. Small tears and nick's in the suit will occur over time and sealing them with this glue is useful when attempting to prolong the lifetime of your suit. In extreme cases when there are actual tears in a suit its possible to stitch the hole using dental floss and then seal the work with black witch. It is worth noting that the glue takes 24 hours to fully dry.