LEG LUBE: No matter your swim speed, one crucial element to the swim portion of a triathlon is navigation. Swimming the shortest route requires attention to the course design and environmental conditions. The best way to improve your open water navigation skills is to practice in a lake, river or ocean. However, many athletes don’t have the luxury of having regular access to these bodies of water. Luckily, there are drills that you can practice in a swimming pool to help you prepare for open water conditions.
1. Sighting: A cardinal rule of competitive swimming is to never lift your head to breathe, but open water swimming is different. Without black lines, lane ropes and walls to guide you, it’s imperative that you pick your head up occasionally to glance forward and make sure you are on course.
Practice Set: Swim 500 yards, picking your head up to sight every 8th stroke. Next complete 10 lengths of 25 yards (10 x25). On the odd laps, swim with your head up the entire length, on the even laps, sight once per lap.
2. Balance: Most athletes will have a tendency to favor one side. This imbalance can occur for many different reasons — crossing over, unequal pulling pressure, lopsided entry and excess head movement when breathing.
A simple way to self-diagnose if you have a tendency to swim crooked is to swim in a pool with your eyes closed. To get a true sense of your balance, it’s important to keep your eyes tightly closed the entire time.
3. Comfort Zone: Athletes coming from a swimming background may be incredibly calm and confident in an orderly swimming pool, but once they are shoved into a mass group swim, they panic.
Practice Set: Free swim frenzy: if your local pool has a free swim time when all the lane lines are taken out and kids are play about and the pool is packed—practice swimming around using your sighting. These conditions are dreadful for an aerobic workout, but the hectic chaos is perfect for testing out your navigation skills.