Open Water Swimming – the pool is good

It is well know amongst elite open water swimmers that if you want to be fast in the open water races (or just faster in the open water) you have to train in the pool. We often share swim sets here on SwimSwam that are designed to mimic aspects of an open water race with this in mind. There are many more unknowns in open water given the increased distance and variability in the courses – but the principle of specificity still applies. So you need to train the physiological energy systems to adapt to changes in the race’s pace, be able to finish hard in the last 25 meters and sustain through the ‘grind’ of the distance.

Recently around our pool we’ve had more and more “pure” open water swimmers – mainly masters athletes – who drop in because it’s too stormy or cold to swim in the ocean. These swimmers view their pool swims somewhat like a disappointing next best thing (kind of like runners who are forced to hit a treadmill). When we talk many of them say they want to get faster in their open water swimming and don’t seem to realize that spend time in the pool is the answer.

Of course swimming in the open ocean, lake or other open water environment is refreshing, exciting and, in many ways, way more interesting than swimming in the pool. But it’s hard in open water swimming to get the required levels of intensity that will lead to adaptations in speed and power that will lead to improvements in open water swim speed. Furthermore, pace work is another facet of open water swimming that is best honed in the pool.

So for those who love the open water and want to get faster don’t neglect the time in the pool. Joining up with a masters program is a great way to get the training you need to ramp up your speed. In the USA visit US Masters for more information.

See you in the water!

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7 years ago

I think the fundamental makeup of open water swimmers is changing rapidly. It was long thought that open water was the domain of “portly” and gruff old guys with seaweed hanging from their speedo. Speed was a component, but secondary to toughness and the ability to be 7 hours in 55 degree ocean water.

Now I think you see swimmers for whom the 1500 is too short to really show when their true combination of speed and endurance really kicks in. As fast as swimmers go in the pool at all distances, open water is the only true “distance swim”

Reply to  James
7 years ago

That’s actually quite true. If you compare swimming with track you’ll find swimming events are shorter. Track was a 12-14 minute race but also an Olympic 30 minute race equivalent to the 3,000 or so and an hour long race and a 2 hour race. Compared with a marathon, the 1500 is over in a breeze. The 5k is barely even considered a true distance race in running circles.

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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