HIT THE OPEN WATER
Want to tackle a 3.8km Ironman swim? Then practise in open water at every opportunity. Most Ironman triathletes will be swimming for a minimum of 60mins without stopping: you simply can’t replicate that in the pool. Every time you reach the wall, you can have a rest and gain impetus from the push-off. Without being truly dedicated to open-water sessions, triathletes often struggle over the 3.8km distance, not through lack of fitness, but because their back and arm muscles are simply not conditioned to the constant turnover.
TRAIN IN NEOPRENE
Whether you’re training in open water or predominantly limited to pool swimming, I believe most triathletes should be practising in their wetsuits at least once a week. You might feel silly because you stand out – and pool swims may have to be limited in duration because of overheating – but, due to the increased buoyancy provided by the added neoprene thickness, your body position in the water completely changes when you wear neoprene, and you need to adapt and be comfortable with this. Just check that your pool allows wetsuits.
SIGHT FOR SUCCESS
Don’t just rely on following the feet in front of you come race day. All triathletes need to be able to sight and sighting only improves with practice. Many age-groupers swim extra distances unnecessarily because of poor navigation skills, but whether you choose to sight before or after you take a breath, remember the higher you lift your head, the lower your hips will drop. I sight more at the start of the race to clock where the lead swimmers are. Then a rule of thumb is every 20-30 strokes, but sight more frequently if you need to build confidence.