Triathletes: What to do without access to a pool

Credit: Adam Pretty/Allsport
Lately, many of the athletes I coach, who are in the midst training for a triathlon, must travel for vacation or business to an area that has open-water swimming available, but no pool access.

Open water is a great place to do long endurance-type swims, but there are also other skills to work on. Below is a list of some of the workouts Ive suggested for my athletes:

  • Sighting: During a long swim, sight on a stationary object that is on land. If available, it is also good to sight on a buoy that is out in the water.

    Practice counting strokes. Count 10 right-hand entries, then sight on an object, and repeat this a few times. (If you breathe only to one side, count the hand entries on your breathing side.)

    Next, sight on every fifth hand (sixth for single-side breathers) entry. Repeat this a few times, then try for every third (fourth for single-side breathers) hand entry.

  • Fartlek: After an easy warm-up, do 5 to10 x 60 seconds hard with an easy two- to three-minute steady swim in between each pick-up. Try to swim the hard part at sprint triathlon pace.

    For those that use T-time, your average 100 pace for 1,000 yards or meters, complete the pick-ups at faster than T-time pace. When doing these hard fartlek repeats, focus on good form and sighting by counting strokes.

  • Beach starts and beach entry: Practice getting into the water with a running start from a flat beach. If there is surf, practice getting through the surf and swimming a straight line for about two minutes away from beach.

    Turn back to shore; swim in hard, as if ending your swim in a triathlon. Swim until it is too shallow for you to use a normal catch on your stroke, then get up and run out of the water.

    Run with your feet going out to the sides a bit to clear the waves. Repeat this two to three times.

  • Run - swim - run - swim: A fun workout on a flat sandy beach is to start out running aerobically for about three minutes along the beach. Enter the water easy, try to drop your heart rate a bit and then swim for three minutes. Repeat this sequence a few times.

    You can carry your goggles along with you; but I wouldnt recommend a wetsuit for this workout.

    It is important to do any of the open-water workouts or drills Ive mentioned at a guarded beach. Be sure to be familiar with the depth, currents and condition of bottom. Its a good idea, and more fun, to do these workouts with a partner.

    Tom Manzi is a competitive age-group triathlete and USA Triathlon certified Elite-level coach. His clients include professional and amateur triathletes, duathletes, and runners. Tom may be reached by e-mail at

    Search Active and register online for a triathlon in your area!

    Get fit with top coaches! Check out Training Bible

  • Discuss This Article