Minnow info

Pool tips for open water training

Six pool drills to improve open water skill, efficiency, and speed

Even if you're swimming in your local lake, reservoir, or ocean this summer, chances are you'll still be logging some miles in the pool. Michael Collins, chairman of the United States Masters Swimming coaches' committee, offers these tips on using your summer pool time to improve skill, efficiency and speed in open water:

1. Close your eyes: Swim 8-10 strokes in the pool with your eyes closed, then sight above water. This will help you learn to swim straight without using the bottom as a guide.

2. Get off to a fast start: Practice a few sets of fast starts, followed by settling down to a more relaxed pace. This simulates the quick starts typically found in open-water events as participants angle for position before settling in to their paces.

3. Dolphin it: Practice dolphin dives in a shallow pool to learn to get in and out of open-water venues more quickly than running often allows. Make sure never to dive in from the side of the pool, but rather practice short dolphin dips from a standing position once in the shallow water.

4. See what you can see: Practice regular sight-breathing in the pool. Start by looking up every eight strokes, eyeing a target past the end of the lane (a window, deck chair or small building will do) and gradually work up to more strokes between sight-checks. Sight-breathing in the pool also will help train the muscles you need to lift your head.

5. Be efficient: Lower your stroke count per lap in order to swim more efficiently. Try a clinic, workshop or lessons for some new perspective.

6. Put the rubber to the road: Try out a brand-new wetsuit in the pool before using it in open water. Even with a wetsuit you already own, wear it for a few pool practices before a race. The pool provides a safe and comfortable environment to adjust for the way the wetsuit changes your feel for the water and body position.

first published on the USMS web site's News Bulletin page on May 1, 2003