For those interested in improving their swim times in a 2.4-mile triathlon swim leg by one to five minutes, there are some open water swimming tricks and workout sets that can help you jump on your bike much faster, and compete on your bike leg with an entirely different groups of athletes.
These sets focus on making major improvements on the parts of your races where time can most easily be saved: your starts, pack swimming and finishes.
Off to a Good Start
Dolphin sets will help you gain speed and maintain momentum at the starts of your races. Dolphin sets are most effective when done in shallow-water pools (under 4 feet). As the name implies, you should quickly dolphin across the pool instead of casually swimming across. These sets will challenge you aerobically if done properly.
When dolphining in a pool, focus on your technique. Make sure to push off the bottom at a 45-degree angle, in a streamlined position. Your hands should be clasped over one another with your arms outstretched and your arms tightly pressed to your head. Push off the bottom using as much leg strength as possible and do not forget to use your hands to stabilize yourself on the bottom. Take a quick breath as you momentarily break the surface of the water and dive back down to the pool, maintaining your streamlined body and arm position.
A dolphin set can include 10 x 50 every one minute. Swim 25 yards regular freestyle and 25 yards of dolphin.
These sets should be done quickly and will be challenging in order to replicate the fast starts that are inevitable at most races. Alternative sets can include 10 x 100 with either the first or last lap being dolphin. Try to maintain an interval that is the same as your fastest possible pace doing all freestyle.
One word of caution: you will most likely breath fewer times during a 25-yard dolphin than a 25-yard regular freestyle. This will help replicate the physical stresses that you encounter at the start of every race.
A sample workout that will help you gain speed and handle the inevitable heart rate spike at the finish is the pull-out. A pull-out requires you to finish your swim and immediately pull yourself out of the water by placing the palms of your hands on the pool deck and muscling your way out of the pool without using your elbows or flopping your body on the pool deck. Do not stop to rest and do not sit on the pool deck. Pull yourself out of the pool, stand up straight and then dive back into the pool careful to avoid your lane mates.