Triathlon Swimming for Beginners - 5 Tips To Make Your Open Water Swim Less Stressful

by Pool Builders on 02-19-2008 in Articles

Here is 5 open water swimming tips to help you overcome your fears and to help you perform well during your open water swim triathlon.

1. Learn Bilateral Breathing

Bilateral breathing not only keeps your stroke in balance, allowing you to swim straighter, it also keeps you from drinking gallons of salt water during your race. I learned this lesson the hard way! While training for my first triathlon, I trained myself to only breathe on the right side. During the race, the waves were to my right and every time I took a breath, I took a mouthful of water. If you are uncomfortable with bilateral breathing at first, use a pull buoy until you develop a feel for it.

2. Learn Open Water Navigation

Navigation is something you don't have to contend with when training in a pool but during an open water swim, it becomes very important. Since there are no black lines on the bottom of the ocean, you'll have to look up occasionally and get your bearings. This is called sighting. Most open water swimmers recommend sighting every six to eight arm cycles to ensure you're not off course. The important thing is to practice sighting in the pool so you get comfortable doing it. As you swim you'll lift your head at the beginning of a breath (just enough so your eyes rise above the water line) and once you spot the shore or a marker object in the distance, continue your rotation and take a breath as you tilt your head to the side. At this point you can make any required adjustments to ensure you stay on course.

3. Wear a Wetsuit If Permitted

Wetsuits keep you warm but serve another functions as well, they help you swim faster. The neoprene that wetsuits are made of is extremely buoyant in the water. The more buoyant you are the easier it is for you to move forward. This extra buoyancy can help compensate any technique flaws that would normally slow you down and expend your energy.

4. Practice in Open Water

If at all possible, practice in the open water. As obvious as this may sound, it really is the only way to get used to swimming in open water. Depending on where you live this may or may not be an option. My suggestion is this. Arrive a day or two before the race and go out and swim the open water you will race in. Just spending fifteen minutes getting used to the waves, current and feel of the water will go a long way come race day.

5. Swim on the Perimeters.

Everything considered, you'll already have a lot on your mind come race day so there is not need to subject your self to the "washing machine" of flying arms and legs at the start of your swim wave. Start in the back or on the outside perimeter. You'll be more relaxed, less likely to get kicked and will be able to maintain a pace and get into a rhythm more quickly.

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