How to Transition from The Pool to Open Water Swimming

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6 ways to ease your transition from the pool to open water swimming to prepare for a triathlon:

  1. Chunk it down. If your race is going to involve a 1 mile swim, don’t try to swim a mile the first day out. Instead, just shoot for getting wet and swimming for 5 or 10 minutes. Even just swimming a couple hundred yards your first time out is fine. There’s no hurry to do it all at once!
  2. Don’t use pull buoys. When in the pool, stay away from anything that aids in your floatation. This includes pull buoys, which many triathletes love so much! Buoys make it easier for you to swim because you’re not working on your balance in the water. In the open water, without walls, you will need to have great balance- something that you are always practicing when you get in to swim.
  3. Learn flip turns. Swimming back and forth in the pool is easier than swimming continuously in the open water no matter how you slice it. But, by touching the wall and doing an open turn after each length, you’re giving yourself even more rest than necessary. Doing flip turns will be the closest thing to swimming continuously that you can get. Find a coach to teach you how to do flip turns or search the web for some good video demonstrations, and you will improve your endurance and ability to swim for longer periods of time.
  4. Swim with a group. When you hit the open water, make sure to swim with a group or at least a partner. This will help you to lose any fears, stay safe, and have more fun.
  5. Wear a wetsuit. For your first few times out in the open water, definitely use a wetsuit- especially if the water is cold and you will be wearing one in your race. The wetsuit will make it easier for you to swim by keeping you more buoyant. Once you get more comfortable swimming in the open water, practice without the suit for a challenge!
  6. Expect a challenge. Transitioning from the pool to the open water is a whole new endeavor. You will have to set new goals, make adjustments to your stroke, and overcome new fears. All of this is normal! Keep in mind that this is all a process, and no matter how advanced you may have been in the pool, you should expect to take it down a few notches once you leave the friendly confines of lane lines and 80 degree water.