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What are the training considerations for open water swimming?

 

Swimmers preparing for open water events usually combine pool workouts with open water swimming training sessions.

While pool training includes a number of elements not required in open water (i.e. such as turns and rest intervals), it's still necessary as a means to closely monitor speed over set distances. Open water training is necessary as a specific means of race preparation; the primary skills acquired during this phase of training are:
  • navigational skill,
  • ongoing feeding and fluid replenishment,
  • acclimatisation to rough water conditions, and
  • co-ordination with race support staff (i.e. handlers and escort craft).

The proportion of work done in the pool and open water may vary from one swimmer to another. Available training time and conditions usually dictate the mixture.

Pool training will usually concentrate on aerobic base, aerobic endurance, or critical velocity training outcomes. High lactate-producing training sets are generally not required; however, some maximum speed training is advised. Speed over a short distance is often useful in open water so that the swimmer is able to break away from, or pass, a swimmer. Naturally, training volume must be high to prepare the swimmer for long competitive distances.

Therefore, the recovery skills used by pool swimmers are even more important for open water swimmers. Coaches must carefully co-ordinate the application of long endurance training sets (and critical speed sets) with long aerobic base training sets, to allow sufficient recovery from session to session.

The mechanics of freestyle swimming are basically the same for open water swimming specialists; however, because water conditions may be rough the swimmer may need to modify his / her technique. The swimmer may need to turn the head and breathe under the armpit to shield the mouth, and recover the arms higher over the water. A two beat kick is commonly used to conserve energy. Open water swimmers generally have a higher stroke rate (i.e. strokes per minute) than pool swimmers because of a slightly shorter stroke length (i.e. distance travelled per stroke cycle).

Open water swimming training sessions usually employ total swimming time and stroke rate as the major determinants. Since it's difficult to measure swimming velocity, stroke rate is used to define the level of intensity. The coach should plan training sessions using the tempo that will be used under race conditions. Rather than planning interval swims (as done for pool training) the coach should plan tempo swims. For example: 30 minutes of swimming at 66 strokes per minute, followed by 15 minutes at 76 strokes per minute, etc.

Training sets are then constructed on the basis of stroke rate and time swum. If a group of swimmers are being trained in open water, the lead position should be rotated regularly.

 

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Created: 30.03.2019
Updated: 30.03.2019
Answer-ID: 86