Saturday, 12 October 2013

Open Water Swimming Tips and Drills

With the open water season officially upon us, now is a good time to go over a few tips and drills for open water swimming.  Below are just a few I found useful.

1.    Train your body to process Lactic Acid – In an Ideal world you’d stay aerobic from the start of a race. But in reality, your heart is already pumping from pre-event jitters and then the gun goes off and you are scrambling for a position. So what should you do? Train for a quick start and teach your body to absorb the lactic acid.

Drill: At least once a week do a 4 X 400m swim set, make sure you swim the first 100m of the 400m at an anaerobic threshold pace i.e. about 85% - 95% of your max heart rate, then swim the final 300m at an aerobic threshold, i.e about 70% - 80% of your max heart rate.

2. Learn to breathe on both sides – Not only does this lesson your chances of getting knocked in the face, but also helps you to swim straighter and adapt easier to the unpredictable conditions associated with open water swimming. It’s logical, if you can only breathe to your right, you’ll have trouble in a swim where the swell is approaching from your right. Train yourself to breathe to both sides, typically every third stroke.

Drill:  This is a great bilateral breathing drill clip from Go Swim 

3. Learn to Draft – Drafting is often overrated and many swimmers waste a lot of energy and time looking for the right person to draft behind. However, drafting, if done correctly, saves valuable energy. The ideal person to draft behind is someone who is faster, does not kick much and can navigate! It’s not easy to find such a person, so my suggestion is to swim your own race and if you do happen to come across the ideal person, draft as long as you can, but never forget to navigate your own race. I’ve heard too many stories about swimmers drafting behind a swimmer whom they think is the ideal person and they forget to navigate for themselves, totally relying on the person whose feet they are following, only to find themselves 400 – 500m off course.

Drill: With a partner, or with a small group of three or four, form a line and follow the feet of the swimmer in front you. Try to hold their draft as close as possible. If you're the leader, take about 40 or 50 strokes, then pull off and allow the swimmer behind you to rotate to the front.

4. Learn to Sight - Make sure you sight at the top of a swell. The more you sight the more tired you become and the less you sight the greater the chances are you may swim off course, so this is a catch 22. Typically, it is suggested that you sight every sixth stroke and don’t lift your head too high, because your hips will drop, if possible try to keep it to just above the goggle line, think crocodile eyes. Teach yourself to sight in your stroke, look forward as you are turning your head to breathe, then take your breath when you turn your head to the side.

Drill: Practice sighting in a pool until you get used to it.  Find an empty lane, swim with your eyes closed and only open them when you lift your head forward, this will simulate your experience in the ocean or lake where visibility is usually limited. This drill also helps you to determine whether you are inclined to swim straight.  If you find yourself on the other side of the lane, you'll need to re-evaluate your stroke technique.

5. Swim as often as possible in the open water - If, like me, you train alone and refuse to go open water swimming by yourself, then you should try to participate in open water clinics.  I find the Ocean Clinics very useful and enjoyable and try to do as many blocks as I can.

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