You never know exactly what you’ll encounter when swimming in open water, be it wind, waves, currents or sudden temperature changes. Open-water swimming requires a few techniques that aren’t often used in the relative tranquility of a lap pool.
“A pool is a controlled environment,” says Sara McLarty, a coach and owner of Swim Like A Pro in Clermont, Fla. Pools have walls, lane ropes to stop waves and wake, lines to follow on the bottom and a controlled temperature—unlike open water, where conditions are unpredictable.
“You have to know where you are going on the course and be able to navigate yourself in a straight line between the buoys,” Ms. McLarty says. And of course, in open water you can’t stop and rest against a wall.
The best way to prep for swimming in open water, Ms. McLarty says, is to get in and practice in locations ranging from ponds and lakes, to bays and the ocean, and on all sorts of days from calm to cloudy to windy.
An important open-water technique is sighting, which is lifting the eyes out of the water and looking forward to make sure you are still on course for the buoys. To build neck strength for sighting, she suggests practicing the Tarzan drill, where you swim with your head out of the water. Ms. McLarty has athletes practice in the pool by sighting the coach on the deck, or a water bottle at the end of the lane.
Bilateral breathing, or alternating sides during freestyle, is critical for open-water swimming, Ms. McLarty says, “so you can choose to breath away from the side the waves or wind is blowing.” Bilateral breathing also promotes a straighter and well-balanced stroke, she says.
Drafting is an energy-saving move, where a swimmer follows in the slipstream of another swimmer. “It allows you to follow the bubbles from that swimmer and saves energy from sighting, too,” she explains.
Source: Jen Murphy, WSJ