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Triathlon Training: Tips for Open Water Swimming

Triathlon Training: Tips for Open Water Swimming


The biggest challenge for triathlon athletes when they first start training is becoming used to open water swimming. Swimming in the ocean is a lot different than training in a swimming pool. It can often feel uncomfortable for those who are not used to it.

Although it can often feel daunting at first, with practice and knowing the best techniques for open water swimming your triathlon performance can greatly improve.

How to Prepare for Swimming in the Open Water

The swimming techniques that you would have learned in the pool are very different to the techniques needed for swimming in open water. Due to the uncertain weather conditions that you may encounter, you need to be prepared in all situations. You can start preparing by training in your normal swimming pool environment. It should be before setting foot in the ocean for the first time. You should wear correct triathlon clothing. This helps you get used to how it affects your swimming performance.

Open Water Swim Tips

  • Building confidence – 
    • There are no walls while swimming in the ocean, it is important to start incorporating long distances into your training. You should follow the ‘no touch’ rule.
  • Practice sighting 
    • This is one of the most important skills that you need to incorporate in your training. Vision in the open water will become harder as it may be disturbed depending on the conditions of the wave. Practice sighting in the pool by lifting your head up forward in rhythm with your breathing every 8 – 10 strokes and focusing on a point in the distance. This will help you make sure that you are swimming in a straight line.
  • Modify your stroke 
    • You may need to adjust your stroke while open water swimming especially if the water is rough and choppy. Experiment with the recovery strokes that you use such as using a straight arm rather than bending your elbow and see which works best for you.
  • Swim with a friend 
    • When you start to feel ready to practice in the open water, make sure that you have a swim partner. Having someone with you can help to boost your confidence and provide motivation.
  • Plan your course 
    • Before race day, it is always important to look at the course beforehand and plan your route. Check to see if there are any significant landmarks that you can use for sighting or how many buoys are plotted along the course. Doing this can help you feel more confident about the open water swimming part of the race and dispel any feelings of uncertainty on the day.


The initial thought of open water swimming can seem daunting for many people but with the right training and giving yourself plenty of time to practice you can greatly improve your triathlon performance. Here at Ballsbridge Physiotherapy Clinic, our physiotherapists are expertly trained in ensuring that you are training efficiently for your chosen sport. If you have any questions about the best way to train for your triathlon, contact us here.

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