Open Water Swimming
Open water swimming is never boring. Whether you are an
accomplished swimmer or a first timer, there is never the
same open water swim. Variables are always changing
such as water temperature, air temperature, currents, river
speed, wind, waves, not to mention a possible two hundred
bodies starting at the same time and trying to get to the
same end point. In as minimal words as possible (I talked
for an hour and a half to a group in a hotel conference
room on this topic and I still could have discussed the
finer points of open water swimming), here are a few pointers,
which help alleviate some of your race morning anxieties.
Know how to swim correctly.
Proper stroke technique can only help. The more efficient
you are in the water, the less energy you use to get to
a certain point at the same rate of perceived effort. Find
a coach or a masters swim program to learn, and watch,
correct swim technique. It is also good to get videotaped
to see yourself swim and thus give you a visual. The main
principles I stress for the freestyle stroke are:
* Balanced head position the head dictates the rest
of the stroke.
* Dont cross the midline of your body from hand entry
through hand exit.
* Pull at a 90-degree angle. This is where you get your
power. Dont worry about the
* Breathe towards the corner of the pool where
you are swimming to, not from. Dont
breathe back and under the armpit.
* Kicking helps to balance the body, sprinting and gapping.
Know the swim course.
It is good to see the course the day before or at least
the morning of to see where you are going. Warming up on
the course is also beneficial. While you are on the course,
you can look for landmarks to help your orientation while
racing. Notice how many buoys are on the course and at what
angle you must make your turn around the buoy to go to the
During warm up, you can also see what direction the current
is going to help your race line positioning. If you are
unable to warm up, then look at others in the water and
see where the water is pulling them. Warming up or previewing
the course allows you to feel the river or ocean bottom
at the start. There is nothing more surprising then a run
into the water and then sinking in a foot of mud on the
fifth step. If the course is shallower in areas, use that
to your advantage to have a longer run in before swimming.
I had an experience once at a race where I didnt preview
the start. I positioned myself on the start line in the
most direct distance to the first buoy. About three quarters
of the other pros were far to my right. The gun sounded
and after ten meters of running into the water, I started
to swim. I breathed to my right and I still saw all of the
other pros running in shallow water. They gapped twenty
seconds worth of swimming with only ten seconds of running.
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