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Swimming Training Plan

SwimTrek's Open Water Swimming Training Plan has been put together to try to give you a basic introduction to swimming in open water. Whether you are a novice swimmer who would like the confidence to take a dip outdoors, or a competent pool swimmer preparing for your first open water swim, or even someone who has already experienced the thrill of open water and are keen to improve your skills and progress; hopefully there will be information here that you will find useful.

You can view and download a digital version of our open water swimming training plan here

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SwimTrek's Guide to Open Water Swimming Technique

We’ve put together the following 8 pointers as a quick guide to help you on your way to becoming a more efficient open water swimmer and to make the most of your open water experience!

Sighting

As well as a key technique point in open water, sighting is also an important safety issue. How often to sight is a balancing act between the delay in going off course and the reduction in speed caused by lifting of your head. Effective sighting incorporates the head movement into the natural rhythm of your stroke.

Common Fault: Don’t try and breathe when you lift your head up to sight, as this will cause you to lift your head up high thus causing your lower body to sink. It’s much better to sight with your eyes just above the water and then to breathe to the side as normal.

Please read pages 18-19 of the SwimTrek Training Plan for effective techniques.

Weightless Head

As well as a key technique point in open water, sighting is also an important safety issue. How often to sight is a balancing act between the delay in going off course and the reduction in speed caused by lifting of your head. Effective sighting incorporates the head movement into the natural rhythm of your stroke.

Common Fault: Looking forward as if you are focusing on the end of the pool lane. As well as causing the legs to drop, this can lead to neck injuries especially in choppy conditions. Looking straight down or at most ½ metre in front of you will assist your legs in keeping horizontal.

Please read pages 4 of the SwimTrek Training Plan for effective techniques.

Inhale (Breathing)

Bilateral breathing is often perceived as the be all and end all of an effective breathing technique. Whilst it is undoubtedly good in keeping your stoke symmetrical and should be honed by all prospective long distance swimmers, for open water you also need to ensure that you can breathe to just the one side if chop/waves are hitting you from just one direction.

Common Fault: Often swimmers will be seen breathing every 3 or even 5 strokes and struggling for breath or being unable to improve their swim times. It’s important to remember that oxygen is your greatest and first source of energy. Increasing the frequency of breathing (i.e. moving from 5 strokes/breath to 3 strokes/breath or 3 to 2 strokes/breath can dramatically improve performance.

Please read pages 5 of the SwimTrek Training Plan for effective techniques.

Momentum (Gliding)

Keeping momentum during your swim is essential. In calm conditions, a nice elongated stroke with an effective glide at the end of each stroke is ideal. However it’s imperative to note that in choppier conditions where the swimmer is being pitched around more, achieving any sort of momentum is tricky and in fact an elongated stroke can be counterproductive as you may find yourself being pushed side to side or even backwards. In these situations a shorter and faster stroke can be used.

Common Fault: If the wind and swell is coming from behind you, even though conditions may be rough a glide may still be beneficial as you are being pushed in the right direction. It’s only when the conditions are either coming at you or to your side that you will need to revert to this punchier stroke.

Tandem

As previously mentioned it’s essential to keep your stroke symmetrical to maintain a straighter course and also to avoid injuries. Hence both side of your body need to work in tandem with the other. Bilateral breathing will help us but also having somebody look at your stroke or even better somebody videoing your stroke to ensure that both sides of your body are doing the same thing!

Common Fault: The most common type of a lopsided stroke is during the propulsive phase. If the direction and angle of both arms is not the same you will get an uneven stroke and hence a journey going from side to side rather than in a straight line.

Please read pages 18-19 of the SwimTrek Training Plan for effective techniques.

Roll

Effective Body roll is essential for a good open water technique. It’s essential that the roll is powered from the hips and not the chest as this ensures that the whole body rolls in unison for maximum efficiency. Also the amount of Roll should be to the same angle on both sides.. The benefits of rolling compared to lying flat in the water are:

1) The bigger back muscles are used rather than the smaller shoulder muscles when swimming flat.
2) You offer less resistance in the water as instead of a head and 2 shoulders causing drag when rolling effectively only 1 head and 1 shoulder is creating resistance.
3) In choppy conditions rolling allows you to breathe above the chop.
4) Allows an easier arm recovery and hence less rotator cuff injuries.

Common Fault: Don’t try and breathe when you lift your head up to sight, as this will cause you to lift your head up high thus causing your lower body to sink. It’s much better to sight with your eyes just above the water and then to breathe to the side as normal.

Please read pages 4 of the SwimTrek Training Plan for effective techniques.

Entry

In flat conditions your hand should enter the water somewhere between your ear and the inside of your shoulder. This will allow you to maintain a decent roll. In rough conditions you may find yourself being pitched from side to side and hence rolling excessively! Widening the point where the hand enters the water to be in line with your shoulders or even further out acts like stabilisers and thus gives you greater stability in the water.

Common Fault: For many swimmers, when the hand enters the water and the arm fully extends, they let their hand sink well below the surface. When they start to bring their hand back at the start of the propulsive phase they then have to fight against gravity to pull the arm backwards. It’s much better initially to extend the hand higher up, to just below the surface, thus using gravity to your advantage.

Kick

In freestyle swimming only between 5-15% propulsion is generated by the legs. Because of this and especially for open water swimming where distances are generally longer, it’s more efficient to focus your energy into your upper body. However it’s essential that you kick your legs enough to keep them on the surface as letting them drag behind you can be like dragging a parachute behind.

Common Fault: During the kick, while a little knee bend will happen the kick should be powered from the hips. Too often, we see swimmers who kick from the knees thus causing their legs to sink straight down in the water. A simple change of technique can have significant consequences to the stroke.

Please read pages 3 of the SwimTrek Training Plan for effective techniques.