How to Practice for Open Water Swimming in a Pool


Let’s face it- Most people training for a triathlon don’t have safe, regular access to open water for swim training. While swimming in a pool and swimming in an open body of water are two completely different experiences, utilizing a pool for triathlon training is crucial. The last thing you want to be is ill-prepared for race season. So, what are your options? What can you do to train yourself for the chaotic dash into open water with hundreds of swimmers around you?

Let’s take a look at how to effectively train for your open water swim from the comfort of your local pool:

1. Simulate a Chaotic Water Entry

Sounds weird, right? When you’re heading into the swim portion of your triathlon the first few minutes are the true mental test. Everyone is running into the water at the same time, trying to get into their own rhythm to quickly make it to the end. If you’re simulating a chaotic water entry by having other people jump in the pool with you and continue splashing around and creating a chaotic water environment, you will mentally already understand how this feels before your event.

2. Practice Your Turns Without Using the Wall

Redirecting your swimming pattern and gaining momentum is easy in a pool because you have the option to use the pool wall. Want to truly simulate open water swimming? Don’t use the wall. Instead, use the lines on the bottom of the pool to signal when it’s time to turn. Practicing without the wall will help you better understand how to turn in open water if you need to redirect yourself throughout the race.

3. Practice Sighting

When you’re swimming in a pool setting, you only have one way to go. You can see the lines clearly on the bottom of the pool and know how to swim straight. When you’re swimming in open water, you’ll see nothing but murky water. You’ll need to understand how to physically lift your head above the water mid-stroke to sight the upcoming buoy and ensure you’re traveling in the right direction.

5. Change up Your Breathing Methods

If you’ve always practiced swimming in a pool, chances are you have your breathing patterns down. You breathe to one side and it’s become a routine for you. If you want to truly be ready for open water swim, it’s time to step out of your comfort zone and change up your breathing patterns. Start practicing breathing on both sides. Try skipping a breath or two. Why? With the splash of fellow swimmers and wavy waters brings the uncertainty of when it’s a good time to breathe. You might have to skip a breath or two. You might have to switch over to the other side where you feel less comfortable. The last thing you want to happen is panicking in your swim because you can’t control your breathing.

6. Do Form Drills

With uncertain waters comes the possibility of choppy waves, and constant water splashing caused by other athletes around you. To ensure you’re being the most efficient swimming on race day, try to perfect your form. Dial in on how you could swim more efficiently while using less of your body energy. By doing this you’ll save energy overall and be less affected by the chaotic water environment on race day.

By utilizing these 6 tips, you will be much more prepared come race day. Not only will your body be more physically ready to hit the swim portion of your triathlon, but you will mentally be ready for the disruptive open water. When it comes to pushing through a triathlon, mental stamina plays a huge role.

Contact me today to customize an open water training program to prepare for your swim.

Train Right, Tri Right,

Coach MJ

Coach MJ


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