Pool swimming and open water swimming are as different as running on a treadmill and trails. Unlike the pool, open water is both mentally and physically challenging. You do not know what to expect when you wade into the murky waters of a lake or dive through the surf in the ocean. Anything could happen–except maybe Swampman attacking you mid stroke– and the fear of the of the unknown is very hard for humans to deal with.
Open water is also technically harder than pool swimming. You are swimming continuously without any walls to push off of or places or take a break. There is no line to help guide you, no lane lines to keep you from swimming in the wrong direction. While some lakes may be as calm as a pool, ocean swims can be rough and choppy, making forward progress difficult.
Given all these differences it is important to train yourself as best you can before your triathlon or open water race. Obviously, the best way to train for open water is to train in open water, but this is not always possible. If you do not live near open water, then here are three drills and tips that you can include in the lead up to your event:
- Turn early: To get used to not having the momentum of pushing off the wall turn at the flags instead. You also get the added benefit of trying to get back into your rhythm which can be muscularly tough. This simulates the continuous swimming of open water and finding your stroke when a wave throws you off.
- Swim blind: Since you can rarely see the bottom of a lake or ocean swim, swimming blind will help you feel your way instead of relying on a black line or lane divider for directions.
- Peak-a-boo: this is a great sighting drill that will help you find your bearings and then return to a normal swim stroke. To do this drill, pick a cone, chair, towel, or any other stationary (that is critical) object and begin swimming but every 3rd or 5th stroke pop your head up find your focal point then return to swimming.
When you do get to your event, try to get in the water for at least 15 minutes to test out the conditions and adapt to the temperature so that it is not a shock when you first dive in. As always, be safe
Coach Chris and Kev