In the winter months it is often not doable or desirable to swim outside in the open water. If you have an upcoming open water swim in the next few months the good news is that you can actually acquire many of your open water skills in the comfort of the pool. Here are a few ways you can turn your indoor pool into a great practice venue for the open water:
1. Practice the start that mimics the race. If your race is an in water start, practice gaining momentum with no push from a wall. If your race start is a jump in the water, you can practice jumping in the deep end, immediately getting in the horizontal position, and swimming forward. If your race is a beach start, you can practice making forward progress from the shallowest end of the pool. To simulate a wave start, you can always gather a few other swimmers and practice starting close together to get a feel for making your way through a crowd.
2. Practice going around the buoys. The best way to practice this is in the deep end or diving well if there is one available. You can use a beach ball or resista-ball for this drill. Practice sharp turns from both right and left of the ball. You can also practice going around the buoy with a cluster of swimmers to mimic the real race situation.
3. Pool swimming makes us comfortable swimming in clear water with a black line guiding us throughout the swim. The race situation is much different and it is much harder to actually see where you are going. To practice swimming straight and avoiding drifting, look at your target, close your eyes and swim 20-30 strokes. Then lift your head and see if you tend to drift to one side or the other.
4. Sighting. You can incorporate sighting into your normal workout by placing something colorful at the end of your lane. You can incorporate sighting drills (for example, swim 5 strokes then sight, swim 10 strokes then sight) into your workout.
5. Drafting. If you have a group of swimmers you can practice drafting off of one another either at the hips or feet. The swim start can be crowded as many athletes enter the water together so it’s always a good idea to practice bumping into each other and defending yourself from other swimmers’ arms and kicking feet. One way to do this is to swim 3 in a lane going across to mimic a tight space between swimmers.
6. If you can breathe on both sides when swimming that is always a big plus. This helps you to develop muscle equally on both sides. It also gives you an advantage by seeing what’s on either side of you and therefore drifting less.
7. It’s always a good idea to bring your wetsuit to the pool and practice getting in and out of it before race day. Swim a few hundred yards with it on so you know how it will feel on race day. A wetsuit is going to make you more buoyant and you can practice swimming with a pull buoy to get a feel for the extra buoyancy.
Anything you can do to simulate the real race conditions will be helpful on race day.
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