Courtesy of Original Watermen, a SwimSwam partner
Plenty of swimmers have done an open water swim perhaps at a zone meet or even just as part of a Saturday practice that a coach required everyone to participate. Naturally, distance swimmers have a huge advantage in these races but planning and executing a strategy is required to achieve elite consideration. Even middle-distance swimmers can excel at these open water races with great closing speed if they can stay close until the last couple hundred meters.
A Comfortable Suit
Open water swims vary in distance but a vast majority go over a couple miles; oftentimes much further. This can turn a suit that you happily wear in the pool for a 200 or even 400/500, to be uncomfortable after a few thousand meters. The wrong suit can actually leave you injured by chaffing that can sometimes even cause bleeding, which is never a positive, especially in open water. The Original Watermen compression shorts are a performance suit that maximizes comfort and in-water efficiency. These men’s compression shorts are like the jammers you know, but do more by fighting against chaffing for you with high-quality, ultra-soft material and flatlock seams.
Additionally, these Watermen compression shorts, aka the Watermen Shorts, help you sustain your warmth in cold-water races with a double-layered front. Even so, they’re comfortable and breathable in warm-water races, too; a lot more breathable than a full-body suit. Not to mention, we all know getting enough oxygen to avoid lactic acid buildup can be extra challenging in cold water or with a suit that is restricting your breathing.
Warming-up for an open water race can be difficult because finding areas away from the competition to get paces can be tough, especially if the water is choppy. Just like in the pool, keeping your stroke rate at a constant is key during open water races. This stroke rate should be engrained into your training along with your kick rate. This is not something that you should decide on the day of the race but rather months before. Many bodies of water in which people compete might be much colder than a regular pool, for example the Tiburon Mile around Alcatraz. To help deal with cold water swimmers use petroleum jelly (ie: Vaseline) to keep themselves warm and prevent tightening up during the race. Take the time before your race with the help of your coach to get your stroke rate in synch.
Drafting may be the most important tip when it comes to open water swimming. The fastest swimmer does not always win but it is the one who has the best closing speed. Conserving energy through drafting is the best way to do this as you can utilize the energy created by another swimmer. The main tip is not to go off the starting line with the fly-and-die motto, sometimes known as being the “rabbit”. These are the competitors that will be drafted off of and tend to die pretty quickly. So, use that to YOUR advantage, instead of being that person.
Find a swimmer that takes it out fast and use them to draft off of for a portion of the race. Follow these tips for effective drafting to stay on someone’s feet and be in the right place in the finishing stretches with enough energy to close out fastest.
Training can be difficult for those swimmers living in colder climates. Those people in locations like Florida or California can train open water pretty much year-round. For those who don’t have easy access year-round to a large body of water such as lakes, rivers, bays and of course the ocean itself: a great tip is to take out all of the lane ropes in a pool and put in a few buoys to simulate turns in a race. While it won’t simulate the deep, dark water, nor the swells and currents of open water, that can be a great way to practice drafting off of others, as well as breathing patterns and spotting the course markers.
Pace work is also really helpful in open water training, by doing 500s at pace for certain durations, or even 100s and 200s. The gallop stroke is used quite effectively in open water, so practicing this type of technique should be another part of training.
The open water arena offers swimmers new opportunities to compete. A decent pool swimmer can end up a champion open water swimmer due to their technique and/or race strategy. Donot box yourself into pool races. Go Earn Your Salt and test your luck at an open water event soon!
Like so many great things in the 70’s, we started in the back of a VW bus. Surfer and lifeguard, Ken Miller and future wife Jen, began making and selling water trunks. The first customers were Carlsbad locals and eventually the State of California lifeguards signed up for 36 red shorts.
Since those early days we have evolved and grown and eventually outfitted over 1700 organizations from local and state agency lifeguards and fire fighters to military special forces. Original Watermen, as a company, was created with a singular vision: provide the best quality, fit, and performance in every garment. Few industries have the opportunity to test their mettle each time a great set rolls in. We’re fortunate; we do.
At Original Watermen we measure our success by the performance of our products and the satisfaction of our customers. If you’re new to us, welcome aboard…it’s time to earn your salt.