The jump from pool to sea
Our Top 5 tips.
There’s no real way to prepare yourself for the transition from swimming pool to open water, other than just taking the plunge. The knowledge that there’s a wall to grab hold of when your tired, or having the lanes to keep you heading straight is a luxury when it comes to training in the local leisure centre. Out in the deep blue, it just you, and you need to be able to rely on your technique and training.
Fortunately, we have a few tips which may help you to overcome the challenges thrown your way by the vast expanses of water in your path.
Breathing – This is THE most crucial part of swimming, for fairly obvious reasons. Having the right technique to breathe however is a whole different ball game. You may favour breathing on the side which is your strongest. For example, if you’re right handed, you may be more likely to inhale on the right side. The downside to this, is that sometimes you’ll need to breathe on the left. If your face is level with the splashing of someone’s feet, the last thing you want is to taking in a mouthful of water each time. While this will feel unnatural at the beginning, if you just let your head flow with the rotation of your shoulders, you shouldn’t find it too hard to pick up, and you’ll have a key weapon in your swimming arsenal.
Distance – If you’re new to the world of open water swimming events, chances are you won’t be in amongst the pack. A lot of first timers prefer to stay on the outside, rather than be in amongst the flailing arms and legs of other athletes. This does mean however that you’re likely to be swimming further than you expected. Make sure you’re competent at swimming the distance you need to. If you’re event is 3 miles, make sure you can swim 3.5 or 4 miles just to give you a bit of a safety net.
Sighting – Can you swim in a straight line? The majority of people can’t… not without the lanes anyway. It’s even more difficult in the sea, because chances are you won’t be seeing much of the sea bed. When training, try to head in the right direction with your eyes closed (if there’s few enough people around). That way you’ll know how much you need to do in order to be heading where you need to be. If you’re training in open water, set yourself a marker and head towards it, checking every 10 – 20 metres that you’re still going the right way. The last thing you want is to find yourself 20 metres away from the turning point, when you thought you were heading straight at it.
Turning – There’s few open water races where you’ll find that you don’t have to turn around at least once during the distance, so making sure you’re proficient at it is crucial. You can practice this in your pool. Get one of your training partners to stand or tread water in the pool. Try to swim up to them, and make the turn around them without touching them or the pool wall. You won’t have the floor and walls to use when you’re in the middle of the ocean!
Technique – Most competitive swimmers will use front crawl. It’s quick, easy to see where you’re going, and can be a fairly gentle stroke if you perfect it. You don’t want to be doing doggy-paddle in the last 100 metres, do you? When you’re training, count the number of strokes you take to reach the other end of the pool. From there you can start to fine tune how you use it. Aim at reducing the number of strokes you use, but maintain a similar pace. Less energy used, along with saved energy will mean a faster sprint to the finish line.