4 Open Water Swim Tips

June 1, 2012

Race season is HERE!!!!!! I don’t know about you, but I am pretty fired up. With over 30 of our QT2 athletes at Mooseman 70.3, several at Rev 3, and 10 down here at the Strassburg Sock Keuka Lake Triathlon, it’s been a pretty busy week for the Qt2 Coaching staff!!!!

Race season means open water swimming, and open water swimming is an entirely different entity than pool swimming. There are no walls, no black line and there are a  few hundred of your favorite friends swimming on your back. What’s an athlete to do? Here are four tips that you can implement today that will help ease your transition from the pool, to the open sea or lake!

1. Warm up: Depending on the race you may or may not have the ability to get into the water to warm up. If you do have the chance a 300-400 meter swim with 2-3 X 15-30 second pickups is advised. Use that chance to sight your buoys and figure out your route, as well as identify any landmarks that may help you with sighting.

Once on land, and if you don’t have the chance to get in the water in the first place, execute some dry land options to help you get or stay warm.

  • Swim cords or tubing. I bring a set with me to every race and stash them where I can find them again later. Simply wrap them around a tree or something stable and execute several “pulls”. Not too many, not too hard. Listen to your body.
  • Arm circles: You can identify a swimmer immediately by the swinging arms… you know …. one going forward and one going backwards. Simple arm circles will do, just be careful not to dislocate your darn shoulder during.
  • Leg swings: simply stand on one leg and swing your other leg forward and back to help loosen things up and to raise the core temperature.

2. Goggles: The biggest problem athletes face with their goggles is the pre race fogging. While there are very good antifog products out there, some saliva works well too. Whatever you do…. DO NOT TOUCH THE LENSES. ESPECIALLY ON NEW GOGGLES! Just get your grimy little hands off of there!!! Rinse them out, and when you place them on your forehead, flip them over so the inside faces out. This will allow them to air dry and help to prevent fogging!

3. High cadence stroke: This is actually something to do in the pool first, we teach high cadence swimming through the execution of tabatas here at Qt2….. but I always cringe when I see triathletes being taught total immersion style swimming for open water swimming. TI is wonderful, don’t get me wrong, especially for beginner swimmers. But tell me where you will get your long reach glide stroke here:

Photo credits right on the photo!

You won’t get a long reach and glide in there. You’ll mohawk your neighbor, and that will create an entirely separate issue!

High cadence swimming has been found to be especially effective in open water swimming. So lose the slide and glide and get that turnover going. Again, this is something to be developed, but something to have on your radar this weekend.

4. Find the draft zone: If you have ever watched a solo swimmer in open water you will notice a “V” shape of ripped choppy water behind them. Anywhere in that water is a good place to draft. Most athletes try to sit on someone’s feet, but actually the best place to sit in the draft is to the right or left side of someone, at their calf. This will eliminate the irritating toe touching, keep you in their wake and give you a better shot of swimming in their draft.

I advise sighting every 8-10 strokes too.

Those are four tips you can implement this very weekend. Have fun, stay safe and stick to your race plan!



  1. super awesome advice! Danka Shein , Mary. I don’t even want to know what Mohawking your neighbor refers to….

  2. I just opened a new pair of googles yesterday and FORGOT when I jumped in the pool and spit in them. (SIGH – I was SO MAD at myself). There goes my one beautiful swim with foglessness. I’m totally digging the QT2 plan you wrote me with the high cadence strokes.

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