I’m in­ter­ested in do­ing a triathlon, but I’m a so-so swim­mer. How good do you need to be and how can I ac­tu­ally get there?

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“Of the three dis­ci­plines in a triathlon, swim­ming presents the big­gest chal­lenge for most peo­ple. It re­quires a skill level higher than cy­cling and run­ning, but it is doable. You just need to swim fast enough to make the cut-off time in or­der to be al­lowed to con­tinue with the next legs of the race. There are dif­fer­ent types of triathlons based on dis­tance; in the 750m swim in a sprint-dis­tance race, the cut-off time is typ­i­cally around 30 min­utes. (For con­text, the best swim­mers will do it in eight min­utes.) So even an av­er­age swim­mer can usu­ally make it. Now, you have to train. Since 90 per­cent of triathlons are in open wa­ter, it’s best if you can do some swim­ming in a lake or ocean, but you’ll still be fine if you do most or even all of your train­ing in a pool. Start by swim­ming your fastest 100 me­tres once. Rest as much as you need to, then do it again. Re­peat un­til you have ac­cu­mu­lated the dis­tance of the swim for your race. From there, start re­duc­ing the amount of time needed to rest by a few sec­onds at a time. Get to the point where you need only 10 sec­onds of rest. Try to do this work­out once a week for three to six months. For the other swim work­outs in your two to five weekly train­ing ses­sions, just swim laps and have fun with it. There may be body con­tact dur­ing the race. I’ve had my gog­gles knocked off be­cause I was in the crowd of swim­mers. That doesn’t have to be you! You can en­ter the wa­ter more slowly and even if it adds ex­tra dis­tance, swim a lit­tle bit away from the crowds – and you’ll be fine. Re­mem­ber, no mat­ter your time, you are tak­ing on an amaz­ing chal­lenge,” says triathlon coach Lee Gard­ner.

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