FROM POOL TO POND

Triathlon Magazine Canada - - SWIM BIKE RUN TRANSITION - BY CLINT LIEN

AN­OTHER SEA­SON OF open wa­ter swim­ming is fast ap­proach­ing and it won’t be long be­fore it’s time to dig out the wet­suit. But, be­fore you put a toe into any open wa­ter, there are a num­ber of things you can do in the pool to make the tran­si­tion a smooth and sat­is­fy­ing one. While most of the prepa­ra­tion for open wa­ter swim­ming should hap­pen a month or two be­fore the start of the out­door sea­son, sight­ing is some­thing you can, and should, prac­tice year­round. I reg­u­larly ded­i­cate sev­eral hun­dred me­tres of warm-up time to sight­ing, hav­ing peo­ple prac­tice sight­ing ev­ery fifth to sev­enth stroke. Sight­ing needs to be ef­fec­tive and smooth in or­der to hold a straight line and min­i­mize mo­men­tum loss.

There are es­sen­tially three dif­fer­ent ways to sight while swim­ming: The first is sim­ply to look up and then back down with­out tak­ing a breath. Many be­gin­ners start with this method. The sec­ond is to sight and breathe. Look up and then, as you dip your head back down, turn to the left or right and grab a breath. The third method is to breathe and sight. Here you take a breath and then es­sen­tially fol­low your re­cov­er­ing hand to the front, take your bear­ings, then drop your head.

All three of these meth­ods should be ex­e­cuted within one stroke and you need to be care­ful not to drop your hips as you’re tak­ing the sight­ing stroke. Tak­ing one or two stronger kicks as you’re sight­ing can help keep your hips up high in the wa­ter. Try all all three meth­ods un­til one stands out as the best for you.

GROUP DY­NAM­ICS

One of the sin­gle big­gest dif­fer­ence be­tween in­door and out­door swim­ming is the prox­im­ity to other swim­mers – a lot of other swim­mers. For many new­combers to the sport, mass starts and draft­ing are the most in­tim­i­dat­ing el­e­ments. Work­ing on these skills in the pool can help al­le­vi­ate some of the the anx­i­ety at the start line.

Start­ing in late win­ter I have my group do mass starts in the pool. We might have any­where from 10 to 16 swim­mers bunched into two lanes. Many of the swim­mers re­port that these starts are more ag­gres­sive than many of the races they’ve been in. Learn to look for feet in­stead of try­ing to find clean wa­ter. Do it enough and you’ll learn that your worst fears, even if re­al­ized – a kick or a punch – are never as bad as you think they’re go­ing to be. You take the hit and keep go­ing.

There are any num­ber of ways to do draft­ing drills. I have my club form groups of two to four swim­mers and have them do longer swims where they switch leads ev­ery 50 or 100 me­tres. Some­times the front swim­mer will hit the wall and stop while the rest pull through. Or the front swim­mer can pull over and swim easy while the line goes by. A tougher way is for the last swim­mer to ac­cel­er­ate and over­take the line. Even when you’re swim­ming in a 50-me­tre pool this can be more chal­leng­ing than it sounds. An­other fun op­tion is to have the front swim­mer in the line stop a me­tre or two from the wall and do a ver­ti­cal kick while the rest of the swim­mers snake around with­out touch­ing the wall.

If your group has a good re­la­tion­ship with pool staff you can get them to pull the lane ropes, drop in some buoys and then prac­tice go­ing around them, too. I’ll start the swim­mers off 10 sec­onds apart at first, then send them off in pairs and, even­tu­ally, in groups. It’s al­ways one of the more en­joy­able ses­sions for the group.

In or­der to do most of these drills you need to work to­gether with other swim­mers. If you don’t swim with a group it can be a chal­lenge to get these types of work­outs done, but if you can gather a group of triath­letes to­gether for the odd work­out you can work in some of these sets.

Clint Lien is the head coach of the Mer­cury Ris­ing Triathlon club in Vic­to­ria.

TEST OUT YOUR WET­SUIT AT LEAST ONCE IN THE POOL BE­FORE HIT­TING THE LAKE OR OCEAN FOR THE FIRST TIME. Make sure it still fits and is hold­ing to­gether. If it is an older suit the rub­ber might be break­ing down. It’s best to find this out in train­ing – not 600 me­tres from shore.—cl

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