Because open-water swimming includes many variables that differ from normal pool swimming, the only way to get better is to practise; therefore you must get out and swim more in the open water. This is one of the biggest fundamentals of open water swimming, nonetheless, here are my top tips to help you excel at your next open water triathlon race:
1. Train in the open water
If you have a race in the open water, then you must train in the open water! Do not use the triathlon race itself as your first open water swim session, if you do you’re setting yourself up for disaster.
2. Practice sighting
When swimming in open water you have to lift your head out of the water to see where you are going (called sighting). One of the best ways I’ve found to sight is to lift your head straight up, look forward quickly, then turn your head to the side to breathe. Try to keep your head fairly low, just so your goggles are just out of the water, as you want to limit how high you lift your head because your hips will drop, causing more drag, thus slowing you down.
3. Sighting on buoys
Swimming in a straight line and sighting on the course buoys can be very difficult at times, due to the size of the buoys or the chop and swell of the water, therefore sighting on landmarks that don’t move (like a pier, house or trees) is the better option. So choose a stationary prominent landmark and swim to that, so much easier than sighting on a tiny buoy that you can only see every few minutes.
4. Practice swimming with others
Swimming on your own is very relaxing. Throw in a few hundred other people and all sorts of strange things happen! Try swimming with a masters swim group or during a "family" swim time and get used to not having the water to yourself. This will help you experience more choppiness than usual in the water, help you deal with unexpected changes of pace of other swimmers and allow you to become familiar with swimming in and around other people.
Drafting is an integral part of open water swimming. It can help you sometimes and hurt you others. Swimming behind someone (called drafting) allows you to swim faster so you may be able to hang on to a faster group of swimmers, likewise you can also get stuck behind some slower swimmers who will slow you down. Additionally, you can be tempted to simply follow the feet in front of you and not sight the course, this is great if the swimmer in front is swimming the correct line, but please check, as you could both be swimming way off course if left unchecked!
So if you're in Cardiff, Penarth, Barry or Cowbridge and are contemplating an open water triathlon race and would like some help with your swim technique or your triathlon training plan, check out our Vale Sports Therapy website or contact Mark (Cardiff, Penarth & Barry) on 07947 010276.