February 28, 2018
Racing a triathlon with an open water swim can be a daunting experience. If you prepare correctly however, it should be plain sailing.
You can practice the necessary open water skills in a pool during the colder months
- During your regular swim session try to swim without touching the wall each end. This will make it a bit tougher as you won’t be able to have a sneaky rest each length.
- Practice ‘deep water’ starts – without deep water! Even if the pool is fairly shallow try to imagine that you cannot touch the floor. Start from a floating position, look ahead, kick legs gently and scull with your hands as if you are waving at someone so your palms are facing the end of the pool that you want to swim to -this will keep you on the spot and not moving forward. Get a friend to shout ‘go’ and then increase your leg kick, put your head down and start swimming with short fast strokes. Progress to practicing the starts in a tight group.
- Most pools have lane numbers on the wall above each lane or on a starting block. If so use these as sighting objects. Swim a length and every 3-5 strokes lift your head to sight on the lane number. Keep your chin as close to the water as possible and try to ensure this movement interrupts your swim stroke as little as possible. Sight quickly but make sure you can see what you are meant to be sighting on! If there are no lane numbers place a drink bottle or swim equipment at the end of the lane.
- With some fellow swimmers practice swimming in an arrow formation. Stay close to the swimmer in front by swimming to the side of them next to their hips. This is the best position for drafting. If you find this uncomfortable swim directly behind a swimmer and touch their toes lightly or enter the water with your finger tips just under their feet. Get used to someone swimming on your feet or hips too. It can be frustrating when someone is constantly touching your feet and interrupting your kick but this happens so get used to it in the pool.
- Practice bilateral breathing. Being comfortable breathing to both your left and right is important for open water swimming. If you can only breathe to one side and this happens to be same direction the sun is shining or the waves are coming from, it would be necessary to breathe to the opposite side.
In a few months time if the weather and water temperature is warmer and you have the confidence to swim outside, pick a venue where the water is relatively still such as a lido or lake. Always go with a group of people that are confident swimmers. Get used to swimming in close proximity to other swimmers. Generally age group races use either a deep water start (floating) or a beach start (from dry land or ankle/knee deep in water) . Find out how your next race will start. If it’s a beach start include repeats of running in and out of the water into your training.
Frequency is key to improving so go as often as you can.
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