On the face of it, open-water swimming and pool swimming aren’t that different. You’ll front crawl or breaststroke from start to finish, aiming to keep your body horizontal and your stroke as efficient and fast as possible. But delve a little deeper and the differences are stark – and not just water temperature…
For starters, there’s no black line to sight and follow; instead, when swimming outdoors you’re looking down at a murky abyss. That makes sighting ever-more important. Then there’s the start itself. In the pool, you can happily stand on the bottom, psyching yourself up for the session to the follow; in open water, it’s all about staying afloat, expending as little energy as possible. Throw in open-water race scenarios, like slipstreaming and turning, and you can see that waiting to practise outdoor strategies and skills until late April/early May will leave you playing catch-up.
That’s why top coach Nick Meyer of Speedy Swimming’s here to give you off-season open-water techniques and drills that you can work on in the pool, before handing over to SwimforTri’s Dan Bullock to deliver the sessions.
They’re not time-exhaustive but will generate impressive results when you slip into neoprene come the spring (unless you’re a winter wild swimmer, or course). In fact, wetsuit swimming in a pool might be an option for an even more specific open-water pool effort. But ask your pool first and be aware that you could heat up swiftly unless it’s a slightly cooler Olympic pool. Right, time for an indoor-outdoor dip…
10 TIPS TO MASTER OPEN WATER… IN THE POOL!
The following tips and sessions are best practised with others in a quiet pool. That sorted, get ready to boss sighting, drafting, turns and starts
01 SIGHT RIGHT
Open-water sighting is worthy of a feature in its own right, but key is that when your hand has entered the water, press down so that your head is lifted out of the water to just below your nose. This helps to keep your head low and, importantly, doesn’t disrupt breathing pattern. Vary how many times you look up.
02 FOLLOW THE FEET
Similar to cycling – although not in draft non-legal races – drafting in swimming can save you up to 20% energy. That’s a real bonus when you still have two disciplines to come. So, swim 30cm or so behind a slightly faster swimmer. Keep sighting regularly and don’t rely on their navigation; in other words, you don’t want to keep swimming into lane dividers. Keep one arm in front of your shoulders at all times, and watch out for their feet or if they suddenly turn to breaststroke to sight. Keep as close as you can so you don’t lose the draft and you’ll be pulled around faster, meaning a quicker swim time than crawling solo.
03 SHADOW THE HIPS
Or you can ignore the feet and hit the hips. Swim 30cm to one side of a slightly faster swimmer. Breathe in towards them so you know where they are. Again, keep sighting regularly yourself. You can see and sight more effectively in this position while still benefitting from the drafting effect.
04 GET IN LINE
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