Organic Runner Mom

Tri Talk: Pool Swimming vs. Open Water Swimming

Tri Talk: Pool Swimming Vs. Open Water Swimming
Tri Talk: Pool Swimming Vs. Open Water Swimming

It’s been a few years since I did my last Triathlon but I have just started swimming again and am now dating a triathlete. I don’t feel like I ever truly became confident with doing triathlons. I always felt like a newbie and somewhat nervous about the bike and the swim. There is so much more to think about in triathlon than when you are just running. I am starting to think about trying the tri again this summer. This means I need to do a lot more swimming and I also need to get some miles in on my bike.

Today, let’s talk about something that all triathletes think about: Pool Swimming vs. Open Water Swimming.

Let’s face it, there are some huge differences when it comes to swimming in a pool vs. swimming in the open water and big differences when it comes to swimming alone vs. actually swimming in a triathlon on race day. You can swim in a pool all you want but it can be hard to ever be totally prepared for what the swim will be like on race day in open water.

Swimming in a Pool:

  • Focus is on form-When you swim in a pool you can focus on your form for endless laps.
  • Breathing-Swimming in a lap pool it can be easy to get your breathing calm and settled.
  • Water conditions-This is never something that you have to contend with in a pool.
  • Mental Preparation-When you swim in a pool you need to be mentally prepared to swim laps.

Open Water Swimming

  • Water Conditions-open water can be wavy, choppy, calm. This all depends on the weather on race day and whether or not you are swimming in a lake or an ocean. In the ocean you also have the current to contend with.
  • Sighting– Due to the current and the absence of lane lines, sighting becomes key when you are open water swimming. It is important to use landmarks to sight and to look up every so often to make sure that you are following your line. On race day you will have buoys to use for sighting.
  • Sunlight-The glare can affect your ability to sight on race day. You need to be prepared for sunny conditions. This may impact your choice of goggle lens that you choose for your open water swim.
  • Swimming in a Wetsuit-swimming in a wetsuit feels very different. You definitely need to practice open water swimming in your wetsuit to get used to the added buoyancy. Also, it is important to consider wetsuit chafing and to prepare for it.
  • Salt vs Regular water-This will affect your buoyancy during your swim.
  • Swimming with other people in close proximity-during a race in the open water swim you will be in a sea of bodies where it can feel like you are swimming in a blender. You need to be ready to get kicked and hit as you swim. This can be very jarring. If you are not as strong of a swimmer you may need to consider swimming to the outside so that you are not right in the mix! It can be helpful to practice swimming in open water with someone next to you.
  • Mental Preparation-You can feel more nervous and anxious during an open water swim so practicing in the open water is key.
  • Swimming Form-When the nerves kick in your swimming form can deteriorate. I know for me that when I am nervous I resort back to breathing every stroke. It takes practice swimming in the open water to maintain strong form.
  • Water Temperature-The water temperature can vary in open water swimming and this will determine whether or not your race is wetsuit legal. In Ironman sanctioned events the swim portion becomes “Wetsuit Legal” when the water temperature is at or below 76.1F/24.5C. The swim portion becomes “Wetsuit Optional” when water temperatures are between 76.2F/24.55C and 83.8F/28.8C.

TRI Talk: Pool Swimming Vs. Open Water Swimming. #triathlon #triathlete #tritalk

What makes you the most nervous about open water swimming? What do you enjoy the most about open water swimming?


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