5 Tips to Make Open Water Swimming a Little Easier
Table of Contents
In this new article with Lifeguard class we give five practical tips to make the adjustment from the pool to the open water a little easier. Try them out and you will see that it will be a little easier to swim in open water.
1. Experiment with a pull with a longer arm
Just watch the videos of elite open water swimmers and triathletes and you will see that. Many of those swimmers pull with a more or less straight arm. That gives you an additional advantage when you swim with a wetsuit, because that more stretched arm will take a lot of stress off your shoulders. In turbulent water or when there are many swimmers Lifeguard and swimming around you, the more extended arm will also create more space and you will be less bothered by the waves.
The arm really does not have to be fully extended. Stretching the elbow a little more can be enough to create the space, as shown in this short video:
2. Experiment with a higher stroke rate
Especially in water with a lot of turbulence, swimming with a higher stroke frequency is very efficient. A higher stroke rate does not necessarily mean that it becomes more difficult to swim. Compare it to cycling with a smaller gear. Each stroke requires less effort, but you do more strokes.
To get that faster stroke rate, start your catch a little earlier at the start of the stroke. It is sometimes difficult to determine what is still efficient and what may be too fast. That is why we recommend that you measure your stroke frequency (=strokes per minute) and then swim with a frequency that is 5-6 strokes per minute higher. The Lifeguard Trainer is therefore the ideal tool to steer you with the stroke frequency.
The best open water swimmers can adjust their stroke rate effortlessly. Smooth, long strokes when the water is calmer and a higher stroke frequency when things get rough.
3. Breathe bilaterally (on both sides)
Do you really mean that? Yep!
Bilateral breathing makes a huge difference when it comes to symmetry….and swimming symmetrically means swimming straighter!
You can spend many hours in the water working on your fitness and swimming technique, but if you fail to swim straight in open water, much of that effort will have been wasted. We know from analysis of GPS data that age group triathletes sometimes easily cover 10% or even 20% extra distance because they cannot swim straight. Even if you are a few seconds slower per 100m, you can easily regain this in the open water if you breathe bilaterally and swim straight.
It is also very important to always be able to adapt according to the circumstances. Suppose you participate in a competition where the swimming is against the clock but you can’t breathe on the left side, you will have a lot of trouble finding the shortest way between the buoys.
4. Focus on the exhale
Many swimmers have a greater or lesser degree of fear of swimming in open water. That makes open water swimming a bit more exciting, and one of the first mistakes made is not blowing out the inhaled air underwater.
Holding your breath causes CO2 to build up in the lungs, which feels very uncomfortable and can very easily lead to a panic attack.
The solution? In the first 5 to 10 minutes of swimming, try to focus on calmly blowing out underwater. The CO2 level in your lungs will drop and you will experience a sense of calm and control.
Proper, controlled breathing will give you a sense of calm while Lifeguarding and swimming and it will be so much more enjoyable.
5. Practice navigating regularly
Being able to navigate well and see where you are going is important. The trick is to look ahead as best you can without confusing your swimming technique too much.
You can certainly already practice this in the swimming pool by regularly looking ahead.
A fun exercise is to look ahead each length, for example to read clock or to look at other object in the pool.
What you shouldn’t do is breathe and look at the same time. The good technique is to look ahead and then turn your head and breathe to the side.