How To Improve Your Open Water Swim

Coach Stephane is a monster in the open water. He regularly exits the water with the front pack in triathlons and open water swims. In this blog he shares some valuable tips to improve your open water swimming.

Is swimming a sport you need to start when you are 10 years old to excel at?

In my opinion yes & no.

The issue is that triathletes tend to do a lot of swimming on their own, or without much instruction. Often athletes do not understand the mechanics of the sport and focus too much on cardio when the focus should really be on improving technique first.

My tips:

  1. Pick a swim squad or group where the coach is willing & able to stop you during the set to correct your technique and explain the changes. Or even better film your stroke so you can visualise it yourself.
  2. Take the focus off pure strength endurance & add in some swimming drills to focus on your technical weaknesses. Aim to have 25% of your swim set as technique based work- even if you are a good swimmer.
  3. Practice the technique & skills associated with open water swimming. In choppy conditions you will need to be able to adapt your stroke to effectively swim through the waves. Drills such as sighting, dolphining, mass starts, polo, swimming around a buoy and fist drill can all be done in the pool.
  4. Include at least one open water swim per week (where possible) and in a variety of conditions. There are plenty of safe beaches and open water environments around Australia. Speak to the locals and find the best spot. Swim with a friend or recruit someone to paddle a kayak or stand up board next to you for extra safety. Shark attacks are more rare than car accidents.
  5. A common error is the athlete not completing the three phases of the swim stroke- catch, pull & push. This will reduce your ability to accelerate through the water. However it is more often the drag forces or “blocks” you create that slow you down & increase fatigue. Focus on head position, hip placement, core activation and kick/leg placement to improve your streamline through the water. If not you might as well be swimming with a parachute behind you.

In summary:

  • Focus on technique
  • Visualising is understanding
  • Pool swimming is vastly different from open water swimming
  • Practice open water swimming skills as much as possible- at least once per week
  • Focus on streamline and body position to reduce drag through the water

The GPC coaches run an open water specific swim squad at Geelong Aquatic Centre every Tuesday, Thursday and Friday morning. Try your first one for free. Learn the skills and improve your technique so you are more confident in the open water.