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In part one of the “from the pool to the open water” articles, I wrote about actual open water tips, drills and sessions that will help improve your swimming. In this article, part two, I talk about drills in the pool that are designed to translate into stronger open water swimming. 



This is the way that waterpolo players swim so they can keep sight of the ball. It is swimming with your head out of the water. You’ll need to kick more than usual and ensure you try to stay as streamlined as possible. By this I mean you should be as horizontal as possible and not let your hips and legs drop. The aim is to be able to maintain a good speed and not fatigue when doing the drill.

Do 25m polo and then 25m swim normally. Repeat this a few times and add it regularly into your swimming sessions.


Bi-Lateral breathing

While I don’t recommend restricting your breathing in a normal set it is vital that you are able to easily and comfortably breathe to either side. This is for two reasons. One is so that your stroke remains symmetrical which is an important technique factor. The second reason is so that you can be flexible in the open water. What I mean by this is that you can have a look to either side easily to see where competitors are, locate landmarks and buoys as well as avoiding taking mouthfuls of water as mentioned above if there are choppy conditions or waves to contend with.

Do a set where you breathe 3/5/3/7 per 50 for 200m.  That means breathing every 3 strokes for 50m, breathe every 5 strokes for the next 50m and so on. Repeat a few times. Or take a break after each 50m to recover. You will find that at first this is difficult and you’ll struggle to hold your breath, but it will improve and you’ll adapt to it.  Ensure you don’t shorten your stroke (i.e. take little strokes) just so your next breath is sooner as this defeats the purpose. Instead, focus on breathing out when your head is in the water and breathing in when you take your breath.


If the pool is shallow enough at one or two of the ends then it’s an opportunity to practice your dolphining. Start at the shallow end and then dolphin until you get to just above waist height. This is supposed to be a fluid movement where you remain streamlined the entire movement. When it gets too deep to dolphin then swim to the next end.  Repeat a few times in a session and every time you get to the shallow end where you can dolphin – do it!


Deep water start practice

Some races start in deep water and you can practice this by treading water a couple of metres from the end of the pool and then sprinting for a lap.  Repeat a few times. This simulates a deep water race start.


Kick / sprint sets

To simulate running into the water, wading and dolphining and the lactate you quickly build when doing this you can do a sprint kick and swim set.  The kicking only part will push the blood into your legs, which exacerbates the feeling of fatigue when you have to start swimming normally, which you will do on the second lap.  This set will help you build tolerance for this. Try doing 50m kick as hard as possible and then swim 100m hard.  Repeat a few times.


Training in a wetsuit

I wouldn’t recommend this as for the reasons pointed out above, but if you can’t try your wetsuit in the open water before your main event then have a go in the pool just to get used to it.


About The Author

Naantali Marshall

Swim Expert

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