How To Master The Open Water Swim | Swimming Tips For Race Day Success


– It’s that time of year
when most triathlons tend to be an open water swim. And some of those will even
be an ocean swim as well. And if you’ve spent the
majority of your winter and your spring training in a pool, it can be rather daunting to
think about racing open water. Well, earlier this year
we were out in California for the Ironman 70.3
Oceanside, and we caught up with open water swimming
expert coach Gerry Rodrigues from Tower 26 to find out
how he prepares his athletes for this dramatic change
in swimming environment at the start of the season. (upbeat electronic music) Before you venture away from the comforts of a nice warm swimming pool with a straight black line to follow and lane ropes to protect you from any side to side movement, there are actually ways
which you can prepare for an open water triathlon. Well, Gerry emphasizes the importance of looking at the required
skills and the challenges and then adapting these
to the pool environment. – So, take the demands of this, of a race. Either a running start, right? Or an in water start. And what happens at the
beginning of every race? People go fast, right? So, heart rates spike, so we need to practice adaptation to that. So, typically as swimmers,
you have a swim background from what I understand, right? So as a swimmer, you were
trained to swim five 400s, at consistent pace. That’s how we were all
trained as swimmers. Well, we need to vary
that because the start of a race is fast so you would
build in super fast swimming at the beginning of a five 400s, maybe the first 400,
first 100 in each 400, you’re at 90% heart rate. So that’s one thing, okay? What’s the skill that’s needed
the most for open water? Sighting, so we have to build in, we have to teach people
how to sight properly. Most don’t have good sighting technique. So we have to teach them how to do it. And then we have to integrate that into every single pool session
during the racing phase. That’s the key thing. Every session. Not once every few times or
once or twice before race day. They’re built in, at least for us, into all of our pool sessions
during the racing phase. So that would cover sighting, okay? We need to also learn to
have change of speeds, right? Because that occurs a lot in the race. We need to have close contact. So, we would set up things and workouts where there’s a lot of
close contact with athletes. We need to learn good, good drafting. What happens at the end of a swim? You stand up, you go from
horizontal to vertical, to run to the transition,
heart rate blows up, right? So we have to build those into
our pool training sessions. So at the end of those five 400s, at the end of each one,
you climb out of the pool and run for 15 seconds, if
your facility allows it. Or, perhaps you can climb out and run stationary for 15 seconds. But the point is, all
the things that occur, all of those elements, we
need to build ’em out first in the pool, then we can
export them to open water. It’s that simple. It’s not complicated. – A lot of useful points there, but if you do want some
more detail on drafting or sighting in a pool,
you can check our video, open water swimming skills
to practice in a pool. And that can be found in
the description below. (upbeat electronic music) At the end of the day, though, there’s only so much you
can actually do in the pool and you are going to have to head to open water before race day. But ahead of that, just make sure that you’ve practiced the
areas that concern you as much as you can in the pool. And then it’s really,
just going to be a matter of fine tuning those in a more
realistic racing environment. And I know some of us don’t necessarily get enough time in open water
or as much time as we’d like, so it’s really important
to make the most of that when you do get there. Well, Gerry has a tried and tested session that he prescribes to all of his athletes. – I would suggest the athletes
backs up several weeks out from their race and
not just go to the ocean, you know, a week before or the day of. Back up several weeks out
so you can at least have at a minimum, five sessions. I would like 10 sessions,
’cause 10 sessions is sort of a magical amount
of sessions for adaptation. So, if you can build in 10
weeks before once a week, that would be a coach’s dream. We do 24 sessions once a week in our training plan at the ocean. But if somebody can get in 10 sessions and this coach will even take five or six, but you want to get those
in leading up to race day and get a group of your friends that are of similar speed
and set up a course. And not a long course, somethin’ that’s maybe six to eight minutes, 10 minutes long at the longest. A short course. So, and you want to do
that course multiple times because you get. Let’s say you did that six
times, 10 minute swims, okay? Six times you would practice a start. Six times you’d practice going around whatever buoys you have set up and six times you’d practice an exit. And six times you’d practice running back, pretend to the transition area. So you’ve worked in all of
the elements into the course in 10 minutes. If you did that six times,
you’ve done a lot of practice. And that’s just one session. And do that six to 10 times. This is not difficult stuff. It’s all the things
that occur on race day, build them in to your training session. So, point to point
swims, or 40 minute swims or 50 minute open water swims. I don’t hold those as high value swims. I think they’re actually
pretty low value swims. Relative to six times 10 minute efforts, as how I described them. – Swimming in the sea, however, often adds another level of difficulty compared to, say, a river or a lake swim. And we don’t often get to practice as much unless you live really close to the coast. And then adding to a sea swim, it usually means you’re
going to have a beach start and a beach exit. So, that’s going to involve
negotiating some waves. And you want to learn to be
able to go through the waves on the way out but then importantly, make the most of the waves
when you’re coming back in. And this is something, I
think it’s fair to say, that Jerry is rather passionate about. – Dolphin dives, what some
people like to call ’em. We just call ’em dolphining. So, you’re off the bottom,
you’re up and you’re back down. You have to just sort of learn how to do that sort of porpoising movement. So, that’s one thing. And you dive beneath the wave. And depending on the power of the wave would be how deep you dive beneath it. Most folks may not have the
skillset to body surf a wave. But here’s the deal. Unless it’s massive surf, do your best to try and catch a wave. Even if you get tumbled
over, you’re going to still end up ahead of if you didn’t
or if you continued to swim. So, that requires practice
and learning how to time waves and knowing how to look for ’em and so on. So, that’s a lot of body surfin’ skills which many folks can acquire. Can and can’t, it just
depends on your timeline. But, for today, although we
didn’t finish on the beach end, we finished on the harbor side. But if you were finishing
here, you just need to look back under your armpit, look for those waves comin’
in and you just do your best. Even if you have no
skills, you do your best to hop in one of ’em and
even if you get tumbled, that’s a good thing. Be a little kid again, have a good time, roll over and laugh. You end up further towards the finish line than if you didn’t do it. (upbeat electronic music) – Well now it really is
time to go and practice those open water skills as we’re in the thick of race season. So, start off in the pool,
but, as soon as you can, get to open water and just replicate that race day environment. The more you practice, the more
relaxed you’ll end up being. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed it. Give us a thumbs up if
you have and hit the globe to make sure you get all
of our videos here at GTN. And a video that I mentioned earlier, swimming skills for open water that you can practice in the pool, you can find that one just down here. And for an essential kit
list of what you need when you next go to an open water swim, you can find that just here.

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