Incorporating Open Water Swimming in Pool Workouts

For many open water swimmers in the northern hemisphere, it’s still a bit too cold to hit the open water, but that doesn’t mean you can’t work on your open water skills in the pool.  In fact, the vast majority of elite open water swimmers do a large portion of their training in the pool.  When working on open water swimming skills in the pool think of ways you can mimic conditions you’d find a race.  Here’s a few things you can try:

1. Practice swimming in close proximity to the other swimmers. Stack a lane with 3 or 4 swimmers together and work on swimming next to one another. At first start of easy as bumping into one another is likely. This will allow you to get comfortable swimming in a pack. Swimming in close proximity is often one of the variables that causes a good deal of anxiety in some swimmers.  Becoming comfortable swimming in a pack will allow you to develop the comfort in order to make careful tactical decisions during a race.

2. No walls.  Swim a number of repeats of a given distance with out touching the walls.  This will help you become more adapt at maneuvering around buoys and fellow competitors during a race. Be sure to incorporate both right shoulder and left shoulder turns.

3. Variable pace swimming. One thing that is common to open water races is a variability in speed throughout the race.  At some point this is predictable – most starts are fast paced with swimmers jockeying for position as they settle into a rhythm.  Also, there are points in a race were someone may up the pace to execute a break away.  Doing sets in the pool where you hold a consistent pace and ramp it up periodically can help you adapt to these pace changes.

These a just a few ways to prepare for open water swimming in the pool.  Do you have a great workout that gets you ready for open water swimming?  Share it with us and maybe we’ll post up on our open water channel for everyone to enjoy.

Be safe, have fun and see you in the water…

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Sighting is very important in open water and a skill we don’t use very much in the pool. It’s good to practice this by choosing a target on the opposite wall and sighting on it every now and then.


My personal favorite open water tactic in a pool is to draft closely behind a stronger faster swimmer ahead. Of course, I hate this when someone does it to me so I hardly ever dare pull this one off in practice.

In an actual race, I’ll try to find someone to draft off of so I don’t have to site (sight?) much. Ideally this is a large (for a better draft) fast(ish) person who has beaten me in the previous year.

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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