Open Water Pool Drills for Triathlon
Maybe you’ve just signed up for your first triathlon. Maybe you’re just looking to get more comfortable in the chaos of water swimming. But even if you are part fish, you’ll still want to sharpen your open water skills if you do all of your training in the pool. Here’s a list of some drills you can do in the pool to get you more comfortable in the chaotic and claustrophobic conditions you may encounter in your race. Just grab some friends and head for the pool!
Sighting in Rough Water
Find a strong swimmer who can swim the butterfly stroke and have them swim down the lane in front of you while you practice sighting a water bottle or other object on deck. The butterflyer will create a lot of waves that are a great simulation of rougher open water! If you don’t know anyone who can swim butterfly, ask the lifeguards or swim instructors at the pool if they can suggest a volunteer for you!
With a swimmer of similar ability or speed, do a few laps trying to stay right on each other’s feet without running into them. When you are both comfortable with this, try moving up to the other swimmer’s hip for an even stronger draft effect. Make sure you’re breathing toward their hip and not away from it so you don’t get a mouth full of water!
This is a technique that you can use to switch quickly & gracefully onto your back if you need to catch your breath or you can incorporate it into open water turns! To swim the corkscrew, swim with 1 arm doing a freestyle stroke and the other arm doing a backstroke stroke. This will cause you to spin through the water like a corkscrew. Try to keep the pulling effort even in both arms so you stay straight as you go down the pool. Then switch arms. Be careful not to swim this stroke too far, it can make you dizzy!
Closed Eyes Swim
This is just like it sounds- close your eyes and try to swim a length of the pool. If you can’t make it without hitting a lane line then you need to work on keeping your stroke more balanced. If you pull to the right, you may be crossing over on your left arm or have a weaker pull on the right. If you can have someone take video of you doing this drill, it will be easier to see what you need to wfix in your stroke. The easier this becomes for you, the more likely you will be able to stay in a straight line in the open water & keep the course distance closer to what it’s supposed to be!
All in One Lane
Get your group of friends all to join you in the same lane. Have everyone swim to the other side all at the same time with the slower swimmers in the front and the faster ones in the back chasing the front. This drill is better with more people, just make sure you all agree to be friendly! If someone gets nervous from the close quarters, they can just duck under the lane line into the next lane.
This is a fun one to do with a buddy and helps you both work on being comfortable near other swimmers while working on your core strength, body positioning and breathing. Have one person swim in the front doing the arm stroke while the other person grabs their feet and kicks. The person kicking will get a lot of practice breathing in rough water and the person pulling will have to stabilize their core to hold their hips up. Be sure to swap positions!
Beach Starts & Exits
If you have a zero-entry pool, you can practice running and diving into the water just as you would in a race start from a beach. You can also practice exiting the water like it’s a beach! Just don’t run completely out of the water and onto the slippery pool deck!
Deep Water Starts
In the deepest side of the lane, move out away from the wall so you are treading water. Lengthen out on your side as if you are claiming your space on the start line. Give a big, strong sidestroke scissor kick to get you started as you pull hard & fast to get up to speed. Sprint halfway down the pool at a race effort, then relax & cruise the rest of the way into the wall. Do several of these in a row to get comfortable with that big starting kick.
These drills are great to do at the end of your swimming workout when you are a little tired because any errors in your stroke will be more obvious! Have fun with them and good luck in your race!
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Nadia Sullivan is a Senior Coach at FasCat Coaching Boulder, CO and a lifelong competitive swimmer. To talk with Nadia or a FasCat Coach about improving your swim, bike, or run, please call 720.406.7444, or fill out a New Athlete Questionnaire to set up a Coaching Consultation. Additionally, check out the Multisport Training Plans for only $49 that Nadia designed!