Four Open Water Drills to Practice in the Pool

As triathletes, it's important to implement specific open water swimming into your schedule, especially if you’re not confident in a large body of water, swimming in close proximity to others, sighting and other obstacles that open water swimming give us. Unfortunately, it's not always possible to get out and practice in the open water regularly due to time constraints, safety in numbers and as we have no doubt all experienced here, the Dubai bath water conditions during the Summer months. However, this is no excuse to not practice the all important skills needed for the open water and race season. 1) Sighting: Getting this right in the open water can be the difference of swimming the actual distance of the race or swimming an additional 200-300m, taking more time and expending unnecessary energy. Sighting should be smooth and quick and should have very little impact on your forward movement. Place a drink bottle on the starting box at the end of lane or find a certain point that you can use as your sighting guide at the end of each length.
  • Full sighting – within one stroke lift your head out of the water, locate the “buoy” and place your head back into the water. This can be repeated for the length
  • Alligator eyes – look forward and locate the “buoy” by only lifting your head enough so that your eyes and nose come out of the water. Repeat regularly for the length
  • Lifeguard – keep your head out of the water for the whole length while continuing to do freestyle.
2) Group Swimming: Moving from a controlled and comfortable pool lane to being surrounded by a group of swimmers and feeling like you are in a washing machine can be quite a nerve-wracking experience, which can knock the confidence of even a long time swimmer.
  • In one lane practice starting and swimming together for one length at a time. This short fast training will simulate the washing machine effect, will familiarise you with being knocked about a bit and learning to overcome this by focusing on your own stroke and movements.
  • At the same time you will get in some good interval training, speed work and “be pushed” by the other faster swimmers.
3) Drafting: This is an important skill to learn and develop as it's going to give you a faster time and get you onto the bike having spent a lot less energy. There are two ways to draft while swimming and both of these can be easily practiced in the pool with some swim friends.
  • Swimming directly behind the person in front of you: Pair up with a swim friend that is a similar speed to you. During this exercise you can tap the persons feet to keep yourself focused and to let the person in front know that you are still there.
  • Swimming at the hip of the swimmer in front will take some practice getting used to. You can practice this by swimming one length on the right side and then swimming the second length swimming on the left side.
  • Another drill is to practice moving from drafting off the swimmers feet to their side and back to the their feet during one length.
4) Deep water starts: Some races will require you to start the swim out in the open water. Therefore, you need to not only practice the swim start but also feeling comfortable treading water while you wait for the start.
  • In the deep end of the pool and with a few friends take about 2 mins to practice treading water and floating on your back and front in amongst each other. Try to maintain relaxed and calm will doing this.
  • After the 2 mins, gather into a tight group, lying in a supine position (on your front), head up and then GO!
These open water pool drills are not only great practice for race preparation but also something fun and rewarding to do at the end of a tough swim set. Train hard, train specific – Stay Strong! By; Jennifer Gibbons, Endurance Coach