The swim portion of a triathlon may be in open water or a swimming pool.  Both venues have positive and negative aspects to them.  Physical as well as mental planning and preparation can help you be successful in either one.

Tips for an open water swim:

  • If you are used to swimming only in a pool, the biggest adjustment to open swimming is not being able to see in the water.  This can cause you to feel claustrophobic.  Check to see if there is a swim clinic before the race so you can be familiar with the swim course.
  • You will enter the water in large groups (waves) set several minutes apart.  At the start, swimmers jockey for position which means you will be kicked, hit, dunked, and shoved.  Don’t try to be at the front and middle of your swim wave unless you are a fast swimmer.
  • Practice what you will do should you get anxious or need to rest.  Flipping onto your back or doing the breaststroke are good options.
  • Practice finding a marker on the horizon so you will know where you are in the water. Large buoys will most likely be placed in the water to mark the course.

Tips for a pool swim:

  • Swimmers enter the water based on the time they estimated it would take them to complete the swim.  Be accurate on this time as swimmers enter the water only seconds apart from each other.  You don’t want to have to swim around slower swimmers and you don’t want to block others either.
  • Learn how to flip turn at the walls.  This can save you valuable time in a race and help you keep your pace during practices.

It’s important to practice swimming continuously for more than the distance of your race.  This will boost your confidence during your race, should you feel nervous during your swim.

Practice swimming with others.  Not only will this help you to swim faster, it will get you used to swimming in close proximity.  And most importantly, have fun.  A positive attitude will help tremendously on race day.