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Tue 16th Aug 2022
Five swim tips for London Triathlon
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Thursday 14th April 2016

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Five key swim tips for the AJ Bell London Triathlon

The AJ Bell London Triathlon ( is for many competitors their first experience of triathlon, with the event attracting a significant percentage of 'first-timers' every year. For many of those, the (open water) swim is perhaps their biggest concern and unknown. Here are five key swim tips to help get your ready for your race.

With over seventeen years of swimming teaching experience, Ray Gibbs has developed a clear step-by-step approach to stroke development. His company, Swim Canary Wharf has been helping distance swimmers and Triathletes achieve their goals since 2008. By quickly identifying the flaws that are holding you back, Ray Gibbs can help you leave the water fresher and faster.  

The AJ Bell London Triathlon swim takes place in London’s Royal Victoria Docks, in front of the ExCeL Centre and the historic Millenium Mills, set to the backdrop of Canary Wharf. The swim, for most first time (and experienced) triathletes is often the most daunting section of the race so it’s essential that time is taken in your training to prepare for it. This can be done both in the pool and open water.

Five essential things to think about ahead of the open water swim at the AJ Bell London Triathlon:

1. Sighting

Without the comfort of lane ropes and walls to guide you during your swim, you need to find a way to navigate your turning points. Learning how to do this is the first step for successful open water swimming.

If you’re practicing in a pool, start by closing your eyes whist swimming an entire length and if you’re practicing in open water, swim towards a target without sighting. By doing this you’ll be able to see how straight you can swim without looking.

Then, start practicing lifting your head up out of the water before turning your head to breathe. Lifting your head every six strokes will let you see where you want to go and keep you focused straight in that direction.

2. Mass swimming

The AJ Bell London Triathlon is the world’s largest event of its kind, with a number of different waves of swimmers setting off at intervals. Big groups of swimmers are standard fare which will mean you face a little bit of bumping and bashing at times.

Having other swimmers in close proximity does take some adjusting to and typically you have two options…stay out of the way or learn how to turn it into a performance advantage.

Drafting with friends or similar speed swimmers can help save your energy on the day and come out with a better time. You can practice this by training in a close group, swimming side by side or one behind the other.

AJ Bell London Triathlon

3. The Race Start 

At the start of the swim, you will jump off the pontoon and wait in the water until your wave starts, it’s a good idea to build your confidence in deep water ahead of the event to prepare for this. The best way to do this is in your wetsuit, making your body horizontal whilst you kick your legs gently. Make sure you scull with your palms facing forwards. On race day, when the klaxon sounds, kick hard and start swimming to propel yourself off the start line.

4. Wetsuits

Wetsuits are compulsory for the AJ Bell London Triathlon. Wearing one can restrict your movement, particularly around the shoulders which will take a little getting used to. You should practice swimming in your wetsuit at least 2-3 times before race day. Open-air lidos are often slightly cooler and generally allow wetsuit wear so are a good option if you can’t get to a lake or sea.

It’s also worth noting that before you return to transition after your swim you’ll need to take your wetsuit off – make sure you’ve practiced getting out of your suit before race day and that you know where your zips and velcro are to make this easier and more time efficient.

5. Cold temperatures

Open water is colder than a swimming pool and although your wetsuit will help keep you warm you still need to get water into your suit to be able to warm it up. You’ll also notice your breathing becoming more rapid when braced with colder waters. Where possible, try to practise your swim technique in cold water, to get yourself used to the experience and then work on controlling your breathing when you get into the water.

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