The thought of swimming in a large body of open water can often be daunting for novice or beginner triathletes, and swimming in open water can be surprisingly different to swimming in a pool. Of course a pool is a great place to start, but you are going to have to move on to the real deal sooner rather than later.
But before you start to panic, don’t! Luckily for you, we’ve got five quick tips for open water swimming that will prepare you for your next triathlon event.
Tip 1: Practice in Open Water
It is a really good idea to try to practice swimming in open water as much as you practice in the pool. Although the pool should be where you focus on stroke and technique, it often feels very different when you move from the pool to the open water.
In open water, you may need to slightly adjust the way you swim due to the water’s current, waves and weather conditions etc. That’s why you should nail your skill in the pool and then move onto practicing and perfecting it in open water.
It’ll really help if you are able to practice in the actual location of your triathlon so that you are able to get a feel for the surroundings, landmarks, and water temperature etc.
If you can’t practice at the actual venue, then still try to get into another open body of water, so that you can get used to the feel of it.
Tip 2: Practice No-Touch Turn Arounds and No-Break Swims
When you are swimming in an open body of water, you aren’t going to be able to rely on pushing off walls for extra speed or a moment of rest. That is why it will be very important when practicing in a pool, to do laps without touching the edge of the wall to turn around.
Keep going for as long as you possibly can because during your open water swim, there will be no time for breaks or minutes to pause. It’s vital that you practice this way to help build up your strength and endurance, which are essential skills to possess for an open water swim.
It would also be wise to practice swimming around a marker or buoy. Many triathlon swims will involve you turning or swimming around such items, and without walls to push off you may find this tricky. Grab a marker yourself (or a friend who is willing to help) and give this a try before your race day.
Tip 3: Practice in Your Wetsuit
Even when you are practicing in the pool, make sure you do so in your wetsuit at least 5-6 times before your open water swim. This will not only help to break the suit in, it will also help to ensure that it fits correctly. Your wetsuit should be tight fitting, almost at the point where it even feels too tight when it is dry.
When you get in the water, it will loosen up a little but still needs to hug your body in the right places. This is why it’s essential you are sure your suit fits when it is wet as well.
Another reason that it’s vital that you practice swimming in your wetsuit is that it allows you and your body to get used to the way it feels to swim in, and whether you will need to change anything about the way you swim when wearing the suit.
Often the buoyancy of a wetsuit can also change the way you swim slightly, so take the time to get used to it. If your triathlon day is the first time you wear your wetsuit, you will definitely be at a disadvantage in the water.
It will be important to practice getting your wetsuit off as quickly as possible too after your swim, so that you can figure out the best and most efficient way to do so.
Tip 4: Scope Out the Venue
If your triathlon is taking place close to home, then it is a great idea to get yourself down to the location and take a look at the route. Are they any landmarks (such as buildings) that you can keep sight of to ensure you are heading in the right direction? Perhaps they are trees or other stable markers on the horizon that you can keep an eye on when you are swimming.
Unfortunately, there aren’t going to be lanes that will help guide you in the right direction, so know what is where (as well as practicing your sighting technique) will be an imperative part of your training.
Tip 5: Practice Swim-Bike Sessions
Although it can be somewhat difficult to coordinate if you don’t live near an open body of water, it will really help you in your triathlon if you practice finishing your swim and getting straight onto your bike. The reason that it is so important to train your body for this skill is because of what’s called Vascular Shunt.
Vascular Shunt is what happens to your body when it goes from swimming horizontally, to getting up and biking vertically. Essentially, the blood rushes from your chest and upper body area, to your legs and lower body. The result? It can often be dizziness, confusion and heavy legs as you try to cycle.
Getting to your body used to the motion of transitioning from swimming to biking will help you overcome any of these symptoms on your triathlon day, which will improve your awareness, speed and skill.
So now when you are training for your next triathlon, put these five top tips to use and you will be sure to give yourself an extra advantage. Once you have completed your triathlon, think about what you struggled most with during the open water swim.
Was it the turning around markers, swimming in a straight line, keeping an eye on landmarks, transitioning to the bike? Whatever it was, take extra care on focusing on that skills for your next event.
And last but not least, good luck!