Today is all about open water swimming V pool swimming for triathlon.
They both have their merits, so think about this one question.
What do you like about swimming in triathlon?
Personally I much prefer swimming in the open water compared to a swimming pool. I like swimming in Pembrokeshire in the clean sea where I grew up!
Now the triathlon season is well upon us and the water temperatures have increased to a balmy 18.5 degrees C it is perfect for open water swimming practice.
Since triathlons are largely in open water, in particular anything over Olympic distance triathlon, then being specific about your swimming will certainly pay dividends.
Open Water Swimming V Pool Swimming For Triathlon
Pool based swimming is very popular with clubs and individual triathletes. The pool is a perfect place to practice triathlon swim technique drills and fitness alike. It’s also the perfect arena for beginners to safely enter the water and practice swimming.
I am of the opinion that swimming open water is a very important part of swimming for triathlon. I believe that if your race is an open water swim then you must practice just that – open water swimming.
I have heard of a situation where a beginner to triathlon had entered a relay race, and her leg was the swim. She was well accustomed to the swimming pool but had never swum in open water.
On the day she panicked and gave up, leaving one of her team mates to do an extra leg. The situation was most unpleasant for the beginner triathlete in question and could have been prevented had she tried open water in training.
In addition to this, open water swimming is a different sport to pool swimming, with elements such as navigation to consider, the water temperature and the buoyancy of the wetsuit helping weaker and advanced swimmers to maintain an ideal position in the water.
My Triathlon Swimming Experiment
Finally for this post, I want to tell you about an experiment I did last year.
I had entered the little woody half-ironman triathlon, which has a 1900m open water swim and as an experiment I took a completely different approach to swimming.
For a year up to the event I had not done a single pool swim, I only swam open water, and my overall volume was only 1 swim weekly for the weeks leading up to the race.
Each swim consisted of an interval session lasting a few minutes at a much higher than race pace effort, followed by concentration on navigation and technique drills. I did a maximum swim of 2.4km.
I also focused on shoulder and lat flexibility out of the water. Race day arrived and I had the best swim of my life, exiting the water at approximately 30 minutes and in the top 20 – amazing for me since swimming is my slowest.
‘3rd Best’ Sport
In my opinion triathlon training often focus too much time on swimming and for the beginner and intermediate triathlete two things happen.
- They get confused, frustrated and tense so all form disappears and swimming becomes inefficient on race day. Piling on more practice just exacerbated this.
- So much time and effort is spent in the pool (a different environment to the race so not specific) with the aim to shave a matter of seconds or minutes from their triathlon.
I feel time would be better used either recovering, or on cycling which can easily shave large chunks of time off your event, and has low impact in training.
Try A Wetsuit At A Demo Day
An ideal time to get training advice, wetsuit advice and a great opportunity to try the best kit for you is a demo day.
Modern technology and wetsuit design has revolutionised open water swimming and it really is a sport that is accessible to all.
A triathlon training centre or open water swimming lake is a perfect setting for this too. They often benefit from shallow water, clean (tested and certified) water and well marked laps.
Pop along for a great introduction to open water swimming and to find your perfect wetsuit.
I hope you found this post useful. Of course if you have any questions about triathlon swimming, wetsuits etc please let me know.
Happy training, Nico.