Developing a Framework for Success in Your Triathlon Swim: Part 4

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Today we are exploring Part 4 of 4 in our “Developing a Framework for Success in Your Triathlon Swim” series addressing how to structure effective open water training sessions.

Part 1: Technique, Technique, Technique

Part 2: Pool Vs. Open Water Training

Part 3: Structuring Pool Training Sessions

Part 4: Structuring Open Water Training Sessions

Structuring Open Water Training Sessions

Think for a moment about what a typical triathlon swim looks and feels like. You are probably envisioning the frenzied start, having to navigate a given course, and bumping into or being run over by other racers. Now think about what your typical open water training session looks and feels like. If you are like most athletes, you jump in, swim a certain amount of time in one direction, turn around, and swim back to the beach. Obviously, this is no way replicates the conditions you will experience on race day and is most certainly why even experienced triathletes can get rattled during the swim. When planning your open water sessions, they should include the following to more closely simulate race conditions:

  • Swim with a group. It is important to get comfortable with the contact that will happen during a race. You need to accept that the triathlon swim is a full contact sport. Once you rub elbows with others enough times in training, it won’t cause any panic and you can brush off getting bumped into or swam over during a race.
  • Swim a set course with frequent buoy turns. Swimming the race line (swimming straight lines between buoys) is the quickest way to get faster in open water. We have found that the average middle of the pack athlete swims around 20% longer than the set distance for a given course. So, for a 1.2 mile half IM swim, they are swimming 1.44 miles. For someone that is a 45 minute swimmer, they will add ten minutes to their effort. It would take many months of training to make up for that additional distance.

Swimming open water with a group on a set course will also help you develop your sighting, buoy turns, starts, finishes, and drafting skills.

Setting a solid plan with the essential elements listed above will help you make the most of your time in the water and ensure your success this upcoming season. To learn more about Boost Swimming’s open water workouts, go to

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