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Importance of Swim Technique & Open Water Swimming


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After the Swim at Shepp Half, it got me thinking about to real importance of swim technique in race situation and more importantly an uncontrolled environment e.g. open water. While its all good in theory that technique is vital and makes a massive difference in Pool Swimming, how much does it actually help with open water? Unless your one of the swimmers up front in the clear water and can settle into a rhythm, is technique really that important for the average, MOP swimmer, given the fact that you are never in a rhythm, always fighting and scrapping with other competitors etc.? It seems to me that 9/10 when you are in these situations your technique goes out the window!

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Open water swimming is a bit like preparing for war. You need maps, information on where the enemy is and plenty of ammo. Being able to navigate, draft effectively and protect yourself are just as important as maintaining a smooth and powerful stroke rate without blowing your lungs up.

 

It's never pleasant but you've just got to battle through it and get to the bike in good shape. The swim is over relatively quickly and by the time you are halfway though the run you will have forgotten all about it!

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Open water swimming is a bit like preparing for war. You need maps, information on where the enemy is and plenty of ammo. Being able to navigate, draft effectively and protect yourself are just as important as maintaining a smooth and powerful stroke rate without blowing your lungs up.

 

It's never pleasant but you've just got to battle through it and get to the bike in good shape. The swim is over relatively quickly and by the time you are halfway though the run you will have forgotten all about it!

 

 

The more sound your tecnique when you enter the mosh pit, the less awful the end result. Forgetting half of good technique is still better than forgetting half of rubbish.

 

Both Valid points. Im under the impression now as Royds said to focus more on navigating and drafting and therefore swimming a better line to reduce distance with small amount of technique work. Obviously Technique is still important as you said Tortoise but i think its actually more important if you are one of the stronger swimmers as you have that clear water. But also a strong technique = more efficient = lower HR = Less energy expended

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Navigating is an important skill, but it's not the same as secure technique. I reckon you only have a decent swim with both in place. And remember for us BOPs, the name of the game is to swim efficiently and be out of the water in good shape for the rest of the race.

I've done more technique in the last six months than in the entire rest of my life. I've done HIM swims in a team. Four years older, 4 mins better out of the water last Sunday.

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I personally think that strength becomes more important than technique in an open water environment.

 

My stroke is quite different in a pool than in the open water and I'm often unable to beat or keep up with those in an open water swim whom I would normally lead out in the pool. Despite the added buoyancy, the wetsuit does change my stroke and requires much more effort in the shoulder area. Regardless of how comfortable a wetsuit is, I've never been able to maintain good effortless technique in a tri swim.

 

The only thing that appears to help is practice, practice, practice in a wetsuit, allowing you to build strength. And experience navigating in the open water of course. But it's still not as comfortable nor as natural as swimming without a wetsuit. The more aggressive, stronger swimmer with heaps of open water experience but only basic (even ugly) technique will get you everytime in a tri swim.

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Despite the added buoyancy, the wetsuit does change my stroke and requires much more effort in the shoulder area. Regardless of how comfortable a wetsuit is, I've never been able to maintain good effortless technique in a tri swim.

 

Ever tried a sleeveless wetsuit? You might miss out on the speed advantage of the sleeves but if that's holding back your technique....

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The only thing that appears to help is practice, practice, practice in a wetsuit, allowing you to build strength. And experience navigating in the open water of course. But it's still not as comfortable nor as natural as swimming without a wetsuit. The more aggressive, stronger swimmer with heaps of open water experience but only basic (even ugly) technique will get you everytime in a tri swim.

 

so what is the best way to get that experience. swim at the beach for (say) half of your swims and practice negotiating surf and currents and swimming a straight line and sighting etc?

 

join a surf club perhaps?

 

obviously these are not viable options for everyone...

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Good solid technique will pay off in the open water as when technique is ingrained as a gross motor skill you will recover your form each time you cop a wave or other distraction and just get on with the job of getting from A to B as quickley as possible and emerger fresh and as ready for the bike as if you had not had to do the swim at all.

 

A term to remember for the "new" swimmer is "Gross Moter Skill" that is like walking it really is a whole body technique noit just the few muscles that get sore when you first sytart increasine the milage. When you learnt to walk you pactised for hours a day ecvery day for a year or so and THEN worked on learning to run. Ditto swimming - it will not come with an hour or so twice a week one summer (well not for most of us anyway). take some time go for a year without being out of the water for more than 48 hours (ie swim 3~4 times a week), get a coach to help you with the finess (yes they will make you do all sorts of wied drills to help you perfect individual parts of your stroke - and theose drills never stop, from "tadpoles squad" to olympians).

 

Good news is after a year or two when you arer swiming better you can ease back a bit and hold a passable form, plenty of our pro's used to do 25km+ weeks as kids and now get by on significantly less.

 

A couple of other tips for open water:

 

  • self seed, if you know you are not a front of pack swimmer why get in the way , you can have a better swim by waiting 5 seconds then starting in clear water
  • if you can't swim at the front try the sides (as above, unconcious people do not swim well)
  • swim out to the first bouy befor the race start and have a look at the sight line for the second bouy/rest of course (that will be one less thing to worry about when there is flying foam)
  • on the way back take not of which way you are swept along the shore and take up a spot on the beach to compensate for it
  • btw you just did a warmup.
  • don't settle in to draft someone untill at least after the first bouy - if you caught them allrerady they are going slower than you (and they might be at their top "sprint to first bouy like a fool" speed and about to get even slower as they tire!)
  • have an idea what the swim exit is going to look like from the water so you will know it when you get there (maybe a swim out to the last bouy before heading off to the swim start)

 

 

I'll stop there before you all get to board.

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i'm a midpacker for swimming but my times are relatively better in open water more often than not, and i put that down to using the advice about the practical issues - sighting, straight line, drafting faster swimmers as much as possible. the other thing i've learned to do to stop people getting into you too much is (when crowded like coming up to a buoy) swim with a bit shorter, faster stroke and keep the elbows out, then resum longer stroke when in the clear.

 

... ass about face but only just starting to work on technique... :lol:

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Swimming technique is just as important in open water as in a pool. Probably more so. You really need to be able to breathe bilaterally, breaking the streamline once every 3 strokes is more efficient that breaking it every 2nd stroke. Obviously tumble turn technique doesn't matter so there are some short cuts but mastering the stroke is a must.

 

Just like riding a bike, if you pedal one legged you'll still benefit from drafting but if you pedal with 2 legs you can draft someone faster. Same for swimming and don't think because you are slow or middle of the pack you won't see clear water, you will, just not at the start, more as the swim leg progresses, especially over HIM and IM distances. In fact I would say this; master the techniques and don't bother with the swim fitness training as much. Proper technique is free speed and more energy left over for the bike and run.

 

And what trifun said, technique drilling never stops.

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Swimming technique is just as important in open water as in a pool. Proper technique is free speed and more energy left over for the bike and run.

 

And what trifun said, technique drilling never stops.

 

Slowman and Trifun are both spot on :lol: .

 

Time invested in drills and improving swim technique will pay off over time.

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Swimming technique is just as important in open water as in a pool. Probably more so. You really need to be able to breathe bilaterally, breaking the streamline once every 3 strokes is more efficient that breaking it every 2nd stroke. Obviously tumble turn technique doesn't matter so there are some short cuts but mastering the stroke is a must.

 

Just like riding a bike, if you pedal one legged you'll still benefit from drafting but if you pedal with 2 legs you can draft someone faster. Same for swimming and don't think because you are slow or middle of the pack you won't see clear water, you will, just not at the start, more as the swim leg progresses, especially over HIM and IM distances. In fact I would say this; master the techniques and don't bother with the swim fitness training as much. Proper technique is free speed and more energy left over for the bike and run.

 

And what trifun said, technique drilling never stops.

 

What a load of .... ok rubbish is a bit harsh... but cmon, there is some very bad advice in there that does no good for the common AGer

 

Answer to original poster. Search through Coach@, MJK or KingPins posts and you will find your answers.

Edited by reactor1
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You seem to know the answer. Why advise to search through other people's posts? Just give it to us.

 

It's been done to death, heaps of gold in those guys posts without having to put in my 2 cents....

 

That someone would say with authority to swim billaterally, not worry about swim fitness or that they should find clear water is probably 3 of the worse mistakes triathletes make.

 

Here's some good threads to start

 

http://forums.transitions.org.au/index.php...50&start=50

 

http://forums.transitions.org.au/index.php...c=43577&hl=

Edited by reactor1
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Do you reckon it's better to start with Coach's 2000+ posts, or with the other guys? :lol:

 

Technique in openwater is not so relevant. Moreso with a wettie on. Fitness and race smarts are the key factors. There are posts that deal with this. Some of what trifun says is spot on IMHO. Slowie is a bit off the pace :lol:

 

By the way everyone - reactor1 can swim very well :D

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Went into Shepp never having done a decent open water swim. Terrified I was going to be thrown out on time.

That said, did a 38 min swim and loved it. Thanks to those who told me just to enjoy it.

Did just that..concentrated on breathing, style (3 strokes/breath) and direction.

Stopped occasionally to apologise for swimming over people, and copped a couple of smacks as well. All good natured.

Thats why its called HIM and not "sitting at home drinkin beer"!!!

Had a look around where the next buoy was as well.

Looked for the clear water and swimming straight lines.

Must have done ok as I was 484th time wise for he swim (my best leg!) so there were about 400 slower...imagine what some style training couldv'e acheived! Summers coming and thats on the list.

Now to repeat that sort of swim in Cairns (and Falls Creek!) and our club OD!

yeehah...swim leg!

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Technique in openwater is not so relevant. Moreso with a wettie on. Fitness and race smarts are the key factors. There are posts that deal with this. Some of what trifun says is spot on IMHO. Slowie is a bit off the pace :lol:

 

By the way everyone - reactor1 can swim very well :lol:

 

Well shit I wish you had told us you would come by with the answer.

 

I started with KingPin seeing as he has less posts, lost ten minutes of my lunch break and so far the only advice I've got on swimming is to wear budgies and not be a poof, here.

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Well shit I wish you had told us you would come by with the answer.

 

I started with KingPin seeing as he has less posts, lost ten minutes of my lunch break and so far the only advice I've got on swimming is to wear budgies and not be a poof, here.

 

When you have a spare minute, these threads are gold...

 

http://forums.transitions.org.au/index.php...c=43577&hl=

 

 

http://forums.transitions.org.au/index.php...50&start=50

Edited by reactor1
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2c. I would say the biggest factor in Open Water swimming is navigation. Followed by a strong first 400m if you are up the front but less of an impact out the back.

 

I swam 27:45 at Port (I come from a Water Polo background 10 years ago) and have had numerous shoulder operations. So I know my technique is not great and I use kick only for balance (which suits Triathlon). However, I am able to swim reasonably well through strength and had a good swim at Port through clear navigation. I probably swam the first 800m in clearish water along the ropes down the middle of the channel. I then managed to find some decent feet to follow pretty much all the way home which helped me come out of the water feeling very fresh. However, with less experience I have been burned before drafting off someone who was too slow. Also, if drafting, keep navigating! Dont assume they are swimming in the right direction.

 

Finding clear water can be useful for mediocre swimmers as it may help rhythm and navigation rather than being caught in white water.

 

Generally however, I would recommend swimming and practicing good technique so it follows you into the Open Water. Much more likely to execute the other things well if your technique is comfortable and efficient. I am also an advocate of practicing navigation in the pool, ie, lifting your head out of the water every 15m to see where you are going.

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I did the open water swim at Redcliffe yesterday in very choppy and windy conditions, technique went out the window. I tried to really focus on my kick as with the undulating chop, my stroke was really affected. Navigation was obviously very difficult too.

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