Have you found that despite a winter of solid progress in the pool, when you get into the open water, you fall flat?
Are you looking for that secret workout or tip that will take your open water swims to the next level?
We have three of them that are guaranteed to take your open water game to the next level.
- Swim more in the open water: I know what you are thinking: “That’s not really a shortcut,” but the hard fact of the matter is that the reason many people are slow in the open water compared to the pool is that they do not swim enough in the open water and too much in the pool. Swimming in the pool all the way up until race day is like only running on the treadmill (while taking a quick 5s break every 200 meters) and then expecting to run a fast half marathon on rolling terrain. You improve most on what you do most frequently. By including at least one open water swim session in the peak and race phase of your training will be a good shortcut to a faster open water swim.
- No wall sets: Let’s say you cannot get to open water, which I know is hard for many people to do, then including sets in which you do a flip turn at the flags and not touch the walls at all will simulate the stop/go and surging aspects of races in addition to eliminate the mini breaks you get on the wall. Be sure you either have the lanes to yourself or the people in your lane are doing the same workout.
- Muscular Endurance sets: Another big factor in why people slow down in open water is strength especially in the shoulders; you need strong muscles to be able to swim continuously and resist fatigue. The best ways to do this is to do long swim sets in the open water (see shortcut 1) or use a Vasa swim ergometer which will not only target your shoulders directly but also apply steady resistance like you will encounter in open water. In the pool, however, you have to be a bit more creative and find a way to fatigue your shoulders in arms and then swimming longer. One way to do this is deck ups before or during a 200-500m set at race pace intensity.
- Sighting: Many people lose time in the open water because they swim more than they should when swimming off course. I have heard stories of people swimming an extra half mile in a race because they were zig zagging all over the course. To stop this, you need to sight better without breaking form. Check out our video here on some drills to improve:
- Bonus for advanced swimmers: Toys like paddles and drag suits will help with muscular endurance and, in the case of a drag suit, simulate a strong current. The reason why this is for advanced swimmers is because if your high elbow catch is poor then wearing paddles will aggravate the rotator cuff and cause shoulder problems. Wearing a drag suit too will cause more harm than good if your form is poor.
While there may not be a magic pill to becoming a faster open water swimmer, tips above will give you a shortcut around doing workouts that are more for pool racers rather than triathletes.