Open water swimming is very different to training in your local pool. These differences are usually amplified when you add hundreds of other swimmers into the equation. If you haven’t done much open water swimming in the past, your first open water start will probably be a real shock to the system.
Most swimmers will do almost all of their training in the controlled environment of the pool, maybe doing one or two open water practices before their race. Unfortunately, this is likely to put you at a distinct disadvantage and make your race day experience quite unpleasant.
Preparing for Race Day
In order to feel like you are able to perform to your full potential on race day, and add an exciting new element to your swim training, it often pays to embrace open water swimming with a bit more vigour.
Unfortunately, nothing will prepare you for swimming in open water like actually swimming in open water! There’s not getting away from it, to avoid the ‘shock’ of that mass start in murky, cold water, you need to condition your body and mind by getting in the water as often as possible. If you live near somewhere where you can get a good open water swim session, try and replace one pool session each week with an open water session. If possible try and match these swims to your ‘A’ race swim conditions. For example, if you’re a race is an Ironman with a beach start, try and swim in salt water as much as possible.
Unfortunately, having a clear blue lake or beach nearby is a luxury only a few of us have. So what do you do if you live in a city? Or somewhere where it’s really cold?
Though you will never really match the unique challenges (and enjoyment) of swimming in open water in an artificial pool, there are things you can do to prepare yourself. You could start by trying these useful drills: