2 Drills to Increase Your Comfort in the Open Water

If you race triathlon long enough, there will come a time during an open water swim when you will need to stop. It might be due to goggles leaking, crowding around a buoy or to get a good look at where you're going. In these situations you typically get vertical and tread water.

For some triathletes, a need comes along where you want to breathe at will. That means no restriction of a breathing pattern due to freestyle or wasting energy swimming like Tarzan. The best solution for this situation is to roll over on your back and just float for a few seconds.

Because I want you to practice these skills before you need them, I'm giving you a couple of warm-up sets to hone your treading and back floating skills.

More: 6 Tips for Beginning Open Water Swimmers

Treading Water

If you don't know how to tread water, do a Google search and you will find several instructional videos on treading water. When you do a search you will find there are several methods of treading.

Pick the one that feels easiest to start, then change it up as you gain skills.

If it makes you nervous to tread water, begin somewhere close to a lane line or the wall. Do your treading practice shortly after warm-up when you're relatively fresh. Begin by aiming to tread water for 10 seconds or so. As you gain skill, add time to your constant treading. Build up to between two and five minutes.

If you already have treading water skills, you can jump right to the first warm-up set:

Warm-up No. 1

Swim 300 to 500 on your own. Include swimming, kicking and a few drills. Then do:

4 to 8 x 50: On every 50 begin by swimming 12.5 to 25, until you are in deep water. At that point, stop and tread water for 10 seconds or count to 10. When you begin swimming again, don't use the lane line or the wall for help. Kick your legs, put your face down and get prone again by using your own propulsive power. Finish the 50. Take 10 to 20 seconds between each 50 to recover.


  • Lift your hands out of the water for the odd numbered swims.
  • Put your hands on the top of your head on the odd numbered swims.
  • Pull your goggles off, seat them on your forehead, tread for a count of one-one thousand, two-one thousand. Reseat the goggles on your eyes and begin swimming again.

More: 3 Drills for Open Water Swimming

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