Hanging with the pack in open water swimming

Here’s another great bit of open water swimming advice in our “train with Trent” series. Trent holds the fast time for the English Channel crossing and has amassed an impressive resume that includes a FINA grand prix series title.

Pack Swimming

 Swimming in a pack can make triathletes and ocean swimmers nervous. With a bit of planning and skill development you can learn to use pack swimming to your advantage in a race.

Because a lot of triathletes are inexperienced in open water swimming, packs will always be very tight and rough.  If you’re a stronger swimmer you can get away with swimming on the outside of the pack. There will be a little less drag but you will have a lot more room to move and will not have to be jostling with someone either side of you the whole way.  If you’re a weaker swimmer you’ll just have to get in the middle of the pack and fight like hell not go get dropped.

The only way you’ll get better or more comfortable swimming in a pack is by actually swimming in a pack.

If you can’t get to the ocean with a bunch of your mates there are a few different ways you can replicate a pack in the pool:

  1. Grab two or three of your mates and swim side by side up and down the lane.
  2. With your squad take all of the lane ropes out of the pool and complete a sprint set with everyone always leaving together.
  3. With your squad take all of the lane ropes out of the pool and place a buoy in each of the corners.  Swimming continuous laps will not only help with your pack swimming but also help your turns.

While in the pack, if someone hits you or is annoying it’s best that you don’t hit or annoy them back – just swim away from them.  If you get angry with them it will just take your focus and energy from your race.  Don’t even try and look at who it is as it will only make you angrier.  Just swim away from them and pretend it never happened.

When you are swimming in the pack you shouldn’t have to lift your head much to sight buoys at all.  The leader of the pack will do that and everyone else just follows him or her.  If you are leading the pack, lift your head to sight every 4-6 strokes to make sure you are keeping a straight line.

Don’t let pack swimming put you off. Practise the skills, plan your strategy and stay calm.

See you on the beach!

Trent Grimsey

Do you want to train with Trent?  Check here for more information on Trent’s programs.

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About Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis

Mike Lewis is a freelance commercial, sport and lifestyle photographer based in San Diego.  Mike began making photos in the early 80’s and immersed himself in all aspects of the photographic arts.  Mike’s professional career in in photography began after 12 years working within the United States Olympic movement; he …

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