Pool training is a must if you want to be a strong open water swimmer!

So at last the open water swimming season is upon us, for many of you the arrival of the OW season could not have come soon enough as it is an opportunity to leave the monotony of the pool and venture into the great outdoors! My blog this week is going to be looking at why it is important to ensure that you still have a large volume of pool work in your training regime and the benefit of this. The question I get asked often as a coach is ‘’Why do I need to train in the pool if I am going to be racing in open water?’’ This is quite a sensible question really, surely you want to be training in your racing environment? Well for me as a coach the answer to this is quite simple!! You just can’t be specific enough or regulate required training distances in the open water environment.

Many people enjoy the open water side of swimming more because in many respects the training can be easier, why wouldn’t you want to swim around a stunning lake in the beautiful outdoors? There are no walls that you have to stop and start on, plenty of room for you to swim and no matter how loud your coach is out here you just can’t hear them, and this is the mindset many people adopt when they enter the open water environment. Now if you are swimming for enjoyment with no desire for speed improvement then swimming all your sessions in the OW is fine. However if you wish to improve on your speed and become more competitive in your age category then fortunately or unfortunately (dependant on how you see it) a roof and 4 walls is a calling. Within the swimming pool you can be far more specific with your sessions, here you are able to complete sessions that will work specific energy systems or sections of your swim. Lets look at pure kick as an example, yes we can use a kick drill in the open water but you have one of two options; you will either have to complete a whole loop on kick (upwards of 750m at some venues) or break your kick up with a swim which wouldn’t be a bad thing but wouldn’t allow for the specifics that can be achieved in the pool. Another benefit of pool training over the open water is that it is far easier for your coach to monitor your swim from times to technique, having your coach there to be able to monitor these things is priceless and becomes very difficult in the open water environment. An example of this is when I coach my swimmers during the majority of sets we work off of training times these may be based on t30 results or PB’S times and more often than not we will break down our race distance into smaller distances e.g 3.8km may be swam as 38 x100 Holding t-30 +10 time with every 5th100 pull. This sort of set is designed to allow the swimmer to understand their pace through continual feedback of time at each 100. This in turn allows us to figure out where our performance may start to waiver on the 3.8km by looking at decrease of speed as well as deterioration of stroke. This sort of set is essential and in my opinion extremely difficult to achieve (if not impossible) in the open water environment!!

I could go on about the benefits of training in the pool over open water all day but I am extremely wary that your eyes may be getting heavier! So for those of you that are looking to improve performance this year my advice to yourself is utilise open water sessions for recovery or race simulation purposes but do not replace your pool sessions with OW. Maintain your pool time during the week and include OW as an extra to your already existing training regime. Even the Pro’s agree, check out Simply Swim’s interview with Kerri Anne Payne. Let us know in the comments if you try out this training technique over this open water swim season, we would love to hear about it!

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