Tips for Transitioning from the Pool to Open Water
You may have mastered swimming countless laps, maybe even a mile or more, in a 25 yard pool, looking at the black line at the bottom of the pool, and thinking about what’s for dinner!
This is a nice start to being able to complete a triathlon swim or compete with your time or your friends. However, being comfortable in open water is essential when preparing for a triathlon. Here are six tips for easing your transition from swimming in the pool to swimming in open water.
1. Reduce your distance. If your race involves a one mile swim, don’t attempt to swim an entire mile that first day. Aim instead for swimming for a brief five or ten minutes, just to get wet. Even going just a few hundred yards your first time is an accomplishment. Don’t rush to do it all at once!
2. Don’t use pull buoys! When you’re in the pool, don’t use anything that might aid in your flotation. These aids stop you from having to work on your balance in the water and make it easier to swim, but you need to work on that balance. You need to have great balance in the open water, so practice that when you’re in the pool and avoid pull buoys and other flotation aids.
3. Learn how to perform flip turns. Swimming lengths in the pool is always far easier than swimming continuously in open water. When you do an open turn after each length instead of a flip turn, you’re giving yourself even more rest. So learn to do flip turns and that will be more like swimming continuously. Either find a coach to teach you how, or watch some good video demonstrations online. This will work on your endurance and make you able to swim for
4. Swim with others. When you swim in open water, always swim in a group or, at the very least, one person. This will keep you safe, make you less fearful, and it’s fun!
5. Swim in a wetsuit. At least for the first few times in open water, you should wear a wetsuit. This is especially beneficial if the water is cold. This habit will get you used to wearing one, since you will be wearing one during your race. The wetsuit has the added benefit of making it easier for you to swim, because it keeps you more buoyant. If you want a bit of a challenge once you’re used to swimming in open water, swim without the wetsuit for practice.
6. Expect to be challenged. Transitioning to open water from a pool is a huge endeavor. Set goals, make adjustments to your stroke, and overcome your fears. This is all normal. Remember that this is a process, and no matter how advanced a swimmer you are in the pool, you should expect to take it down a few notches once you leave the warm water and friendly confines of lane lines in that pool.