Today we are exploring Part 2 of 4 in our “Developing a Framework for Success in Your Triathlon Swim” series addressing how much pool vs. open water training is ideal for your level of experience.
Part 2: Pool Vs. Open Water Training
Part 3: Structuring Pool Training Sessions
Part 4: Structuring Open Water Training Sessions
Pool or Open Water Training?
Unless you are lucky enough to live somewhere you can swim in open water year round, you are probably going to be doing most of your early season training in a pool. The good news is that this is actually the best place to measure your improvement and push your progression. Because you are swimming in a controlled environment, it is simple to measure the most important metric to success: Speed. The pace clock on the wall (or the watch on your wrist) is a vital tool to push your progression. Also, the pool is the best place to measure your efficiency by counting the number of strokes you take per lap and comparing that to your repeat times. This will build an awareness of your ideal stroke count as well as head off just swimming “garbage yardage” by adding accountability for your technique. While open water training is important, it is very easy to zone out during improperly designed sessions. Without the accountability of a clock and stroke count, technique can suffer if done too frequently.
While the pool is the best place to keep track of your progress, open water training is an essential part of any triathlete’s preparation. Once the weather warms up, deciding on the optimal ratio of pool to open water sessions will depend on your experience level. If you are a beginner, the swim portion of the race may be the most daunting. The fear of getting run over, getting lost, or maybe even big fish can lead to a disproportionate amount of anxiety that can derail your race plan for the day. The only way to get comfortable swimming open water is to spend time there. If fear is your limiter, you should dedicate at least 50% of your training sessions to open water until you are no longer fearful. Once you are comfortable in open water conditions, you can cut back your open water sessions and concentrate on getting faster in the pool.
If you are a more advanced triathlete and have developed your open water skills to a high level, about 75% of your training sessions should be done in the pool. Once again, this is the easiest place to push improvement and measure your progress.
Next week, we will address how to structure your pool training sessions to optimize your training time and ensure real progress toward your goals.