As a triathlete, you are an open water swimmer. Preparing for ocean or lake swimming is requisite, but good news--it's something that can be practiced in the pool. Even on days when you're unable to get to a local lake or the ocean, there are some training methods that can be accomplished in the pool that simulate many open water skills. Beyond this, it can be fun to switch up the monotony of your pool regimen and play around a bit as if you're in the waves.
Try these things in the pool to better prepare you for the ocean:
- Flip turn in the middle of the pool and then continue in the same direction forward by picking up your cadence and effort to rebuild momentum. This helps with swim speed variability, and practicing starts and stops will train you to build momentum quickly.
- Swim close to the lane line or wall to gain comfort swimming in tight positions and packs of athletes.
- Practice "dolphin diving" to replicate diving under waves at the beach entry to avoid turbulence.
- Commit to sighting more often. Do so 2 to 3 times per pool length so that you're able to integrate the mechanics of sighting into your stroke cycle. This is your navigation in the open water, so be sure to get comfortable doing it.
Add 3 to 5 friends to the mix, and you can really accomplish a lot of functional open water training together in the pool.
- Pool Open Water, or POW swimming, requires you to take out the pool's lane ropes to create a lane-less body of water. This allows the freedom to swim continuous loops, as well as to practice buoy turns in the pool.
- Snake is a fun drill requiring swimmers to learn how to draft and pass other swimmers in open water. Line up three swimmers and swim single file at a comfortable pace; the swimmer at the back should then sprint to the front of the line to take the lead. Continuously bring the rear swimmer to the front.
- Swim three or four abreast in one lane. At the wall, stand shoulder to shoulder with your group and all send off at the same. This will instill comfort and confidence when swimming in a tight pack.
- Sighting practice with the help of someone on deck is invaluable. Swim freestyle three or four abreast towards the other end of the pool while the person on the deck moves a chair or large object. Moving the chair a couple of times during their swim will force the athletes to trust their sighting abilities, rather than just following the course of their neighbor.