Lighter mornings, that strange yellow thing is poking out from behind the clouds. It can mean only one thing. Race season is coming! It also means that UK lakes (and the sea eventually) are warming up and its time to dust off the wetsuit and start introducing some open water training into your schedule. After a winter spent mindlessly counting lengths in the local pool it’s time to venture outside away from the comfort of the neat black line, calm, shallow water and a wall at either end to cling onto at the end of a hard rep. Making the leap from Pro in the pool to Open Water Supremo is harder than it looks and early season races frequently catch even the most experienced triathletes out.
I often ask new athletes I’m working with: ‘What open water training do you do?’. I generally get 2 answers, the first is “None”, the second is ‘I swim 2-3 steady laps once a week at the local lake’. With pool training, most swimmers with a good coach or training program, tend to have structure to their sessions. In open water, its very common for people to just get in and ‘plod’.
And this is an aspect of improving your overall race performance that is often overlooked. Nearly every other session you undertake has a clear performance goal, in the pool you work on speed, or a technical aspect of your stroke. But swimming 2 laps of the lake? I can’t think of any other session that has any less focus on improving your performance!
So what are the benefits of specific open water swimming?
For many people, their first open water swim is scary step into the unknown, but it certainly doesn’t have to be that way. With some good advice and sound preparation in the basic skills you need, your confidence will sky rocket. Meaning that you can save all that nervous energy for later on in the day!
Start the way you mean to go on! Being a confident and proficient open water swimmer will mean you get a better start to the race. Forget all the flailing arms and legs, with practice, you’ll learn how to position yourself well at the start of the race and use the big crowds to your advantage, just like drafting on the bike, finding the right place in a group of fast swimmers can cut your swim time and help you breeze round the first portion of the race.
Practicing the extra skills you need in the open water, like efficiently adding sighting to your stroke will make the swim leg a much more enjoyable part of the race. Similarly, learning to pace effectively without having a breather at the wall every 25m will mean you save a lot more energy. Good positioning, drafting and more efficient sighting and turning with better technique means that you’ll be getting out of the water having expended a lot less energy than normal and will set you up to have a fantastic bike and run legs.
In May we’re pleased to announce the launch of thetrilife.com Transform Your Open Water Swimming Program. It’s a 12 week program designed to improve your open water swimming skills. From the very basics of choosing kit and finding somewhere to train through to more advanced tips and tricks to guide you to being a better open water swimmer.
Through three phases of four weeks, each session will act as a building block for the until at the end of the program you successfully improve your 1000m open water time and feel more confident in the water.
Whatever your ability, we hope we can help and guide you to build the confidence and skills required to enjoy open water swimming and raise your game on race day. With a range of abilities in mind, we have split the program into 2 levels. The first level is for those swimmers who can swim in the pool and are making the leap to an open water race this season. Level 2 is for those triathletes in their second or third open water season and are looking for those marginal gains that are going to elevate them to King of The Swim status in their local clubs!