//Getting Started
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Triathlon 101: Everything You Need For The Swim

The first step of a triathlon isn’t a step at all—it’s a plunge. Here’s everything you’ll need for the first leg: the swim.

Triathlon is a very unique sport. Yes, it is three sports rolled into one. But apart from that, it’s also one of the only events where amateurs can perform on the exact same course as professionals. So anyone who finishes the swim, bike, and run can actually feel like a pro (as they should).

The pandemic saw a pause in triathlon events in the Philippines, but now, they are starting to come back. So if you want to unleash the professional athlete inside of you, here’s how to get started.

First, you need to swim.

The bare minimum

Starting the swim is pretty straightforward. After all, you’ll only really need your swimsuit (or a triathlon suit) and goggles. And honestly, that’s enough. As long as you’re hitting the pool several times a week, putting those laps in, you can consider that training.

Swim googles
Swim suit

But if we’re being honest, throwing on your goggles and doing laps is the bare minimum.

There are many ways to become a stronger swimmer. And as it is the first event, who wouldn’t want to start off on the strongest note possible? Here’s some equipment that will help you do just that.


If there’s one item you need to add to your swim gear, it’s a pair of fins. Swimming fins mimic the fins of water animals, designed to help you improve your performance in the water.

Fins will help you train for a triathlon

When you swim with fins on, you’ll start to feel like Michael Phelps. They make kicking more efficient and more powerful, helping you move a lot faster in the water. But using fins is more than just about gaining speed. Here are just some of the benefits that will help you, specifically if you’re training for a triathlon:

  • Your kicking will become more efficient, as they will teach you how to move faster without kicking up huge splashes of water.
  • Although using fins increases your speed, it still adds resistance to your kicks. This will help to increase your leg strength and build the endurance of your muscles, important for long-distance swims in triathlons.
  • If you’re training for a triathlon, you’re probably doing long swim sessions, and fins take some of the strain off your shoulders.

But bear in mind that in triathlons, you can’t bring your fins (unfortunately). So make sure to throw them on in intervals so you never feel dependent on them.

Hand paddles

While most people think that swimmers get their power from their legs, a lot of it actually comes from the pull of your arms. And since out of the three sports in triathlon are very demanding on the legs, take our advice. Use your arms as much as you can in the swim.

Hand paddles will help you train for a triathlon

Adding some hand paddles to your swim bag can train you to pull stronger. Unlike fins, which make you feel like you’re swimming faster by working less, paddles are the opposite. You have to work harder to move faster. This is because of the resistance they add to your hands when you stroke.

But that’s a good thing. Here are some of the ways paddles will help you train for the swim.

  • Because of the resistance, over time, paddles will increase the strength of your pull, which will ultimately help you go faster and swim more efficiently.
  • Once you get used to the resistance, it means that your muscle endurance has built up. And going for long swims in open water will definitely put this to the test.
  • It’s a full upper body workout. The resistance will not only make your arms stronger but your back and chest as well.

Similar to using fins, you may feel like you become a lot slower when you take the paddles off. But don’t worry, without them on, you’re pulling harder than you realize.

Pull bouy

If you want to go a step above and really max out those arms before the bike and the run, you can lose your kick entirely in your swim sessions to force those arms to pull hard. Get yourself a pull buoy.

Swimming with a pull buoy will help you train for a triathlon

A pull buoy is essentially like a floatie that you hold between your legs so that your legs float in the water without you needing to kick them. Thus, you’ll be able to really focus all your attention on the rest of your body. Here are some of the ways pull buoys help in a swim session:

  • If you don’t have a pair of paddles, using a pull buoy will force your arms to pull hard, which will help them get stronger.
  • You can use your paddles with the pull buoy to focus your energy on the resistance of your pulls.
  • Keeping your hips afloat in the water will also help develop your body alignment in the water, allowing you to streamline.

Once you start consistently incorporating drills using the pull buoy, you’ll notice that when you leave them out and start kicking again, you feel even more powerful. And that’s exactly the point.

While swimming seems straightforward, there are actually a lot of ways you spice up your training. After all, doing hundreds of laps plain and simple is not the most entertaining workout. So sprinkle in a little bit of a challenge. Once you’re in the middle of your swim in your next triathlon, you’ll be thanking us.