Training Open Water vs. The Pool

Every spring many of my triathlete swimmers head out to the lake and I don’t see them again until late fall when the weather and water become too cold for training swims, even with a wetsuit on. Are you one of these swimmers? If you are this is for you.

As an open water distance swimmer, I like to get outside and swim in the lake and enjoy the sun on my back and the sheer joy of being outside.  These outside swims, however, cannot replace interval training. When cruising along in the lake or ocean it can become difficult to monitor your pace. It is easy to swim along unaware that your pace has dropped off over the distance. When this happens your training effectiveness drops off with your pace.  You need to stay aware of your speed over distance to maximize your training time.  Here are some thoughts on how to ensure your swims are getting you the results:

  • Balance open water swimming with pool training. Don’t head out to the lake everyday.  Use the pool and pace clock.  Do at least 50% of your training with a pace clock that allows you to swim on interval. For more details see Understanding Base.
  • Use a tempo trainer. Using a tempo trainer in open water won’t guarantee that you are swimming at the same pace like a pace clock, but it will help you recognize when your stroke rate is dropping.
  • Set your watch to beep at a predetermined time period (every 5 minutes for example) and learn to spot visual milestones on your swim. Stay on pace by checking where you are against the timed beeps.
  • Set your watch to beep at a shorter predetermined time period (every 30 seconds or 1 minute for example) and count your strokes per minute. While you don’t have to count your strokes every minute, you can count periodically to ensure that you are not dropping off on stroke pace.

These ideas will help you maximize your open water training, but nothing replaces interval training.

Up Next: Get out of your comfort zone!

Leave a Comment