If you're one of the thousands of people who'll jump into the water this
summer to try your hand and legs at the growing sports of open water
swimming or triathlon, the thought of open-water swimming may loom large
in your mind.
To help prepare for the transition to your local lake, reservoir, or
ocean, Michael Collins, chairman of the United States Masters Swimming
coaches committee, offers these tips on helpful pool practice:
1. Close your eyes: Swim 8 - 10 strokes in the
pool with your eyes closed, then sight above water. This will help you
learn to swim straight without using the bottom of the pool as a guide.
2. Get off to a fast start: Practice a few sets
of fast starts, followed by settling down to a more relaxed pace. This
simulates the quick starts typically found in open-water events as
participants angle for position before settling in to their paces.
3. Dolphin it: Practice dolphin dives (pushing
forward off the bottom in a series of short dives to propel yourself
through shallow water) in a shallow pool to learn to get in and out of
open-water venues more quickly than running through the water. Make sure
never to dive in from the side of the pool, but rather practice short
dolphin dips from a standing position once in the shallow water.
4. See what you can see: Practice regular
sight-breathing in the pool, lifting your head up to look forward in
rhythm with your breathing. Start by looking up every eight strokes,
eyeing a target past the end of the lane (a window, deck chair or small
building will do) and gradually work up to more strokes between
sight-checks. Sight-breathing in the pool also will help train the muscles
you need to lift your head.
5. Be efficient: Make it a goal to lower your
stroke count per lap in order to swim more efficiently. Try a clinic,
workshop or lessons for some new perspective.
6. Put the rubber to the road: Try out a
brand-new wetsuit in the pool before using it in open water. Even with a
wetsuit you already own, wear it for a few pool practices before a race.
The pool provides a safe and comfortable environment to adjust for the way
the wetsuit changes your feel for the water and body position.
United States Masters Swimming (www.usms.org) is a
national organization that provides organized workouts, competitions,
clinics and workshops for adults age 18 and over. Programs are open to all
adult swimmers (fitness, triathlete, competitive, non-competitive) who are
dedicated to improving their fitness through swimming. Founded in 1970,
USMS is organized with more than 1,100 workout groups and teams throughout