General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Training in open water Rss Feed  
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2018-08-14 6:46 PM

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Subject: Training in open water
I recently bought a house on a small lake, and I am training for a tri, so I have 3 questions.

First, how can I figure out how far I'm swimming? It's not like I can ride it out with my bike.

Second, I figure I'll train in the lake, rather than at the local pool. Is there any advantage to pool training? Am I missing something I should be thinking of?

Third, should I train in my wetsuit? I'm assuming I'll race in my wetsuit.


2018-08-14 9:25 PM
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Subject: RE: Training in open water
1. Depends on your available resources and how much accuracy matters to you. Some of the higher-end Garmins (920?) will measure swim distance accurately and can be worn while swimming. Even if you just have a running watch or other GPS device, I'd imagine you could row out a course to measure it? Or just swim by time or estimate the distance by stroke count. I usually do the latter. Sometimes in the summer I will "translate" a pool workout to a local lake, if the pool is closed for repairs or I just feel like swimming outside (no decent outdoor pools here). I know I do about 22-24 strokes/25 meters in the pool (freestyle). I add a few extra since in open water there are no walls to push off of. Usually I round up to 30, and then just consider 100m (4 lengths of a 25m pool) to be 120 strokes and so on. The times seem to work out about right--guessing I am overestimating stroke count a bit but maybe am a bit faster in a wetsuit so it balances out. Not sure if everyone can easily count their strokes like that though.

2. I'd think the main disadvantage to training mainly in a lake would be it would be less precise in terms of pacing, distance, and rest, if you are trying to do structured workouts to develop speed and fitness. Open water tends to lend itself more toward continuous or semi-continuous distance swimming (for example, 30 minutes steady, or 3 X 10-minute loops of a lake at different intensities with short breaks in between) rather than shorter repeats. For many less proficient swimmers, their form will start to fall apart in a long continuous swim and they would be better served with splitting the workout into shorter repeats with rests in between. You can, however, do "repeats" by counting strokes to estimate distance and then taking breaks in between. This does assume you are comfortable treading water for a bit out in the middle of a lake, and that this can serve as your "recovery". I do this sometimes--not sure a newbie swimmer would enjoy that. Or, I guess, if it's a pretty small lake, just swim across it for "repeats"? I have also seen swimmers doing "repeats" out to a mid-lake buoy and back.

3. If the water is cold enough to make a wetsuit necessary or at least comfortable, and you plan to race in the wetsuit, then I'd train in the wetsuit. If it's warm, it would be better not to. A wetsuit in a warm lake feels pretty horrid. At any rate, you shouldn't physically or mentally "need" the wetsuit to comfortably complete the race distance.


Edited by Hot Runner 2018-08-14 9:29 PM
2018-08-14 10:13 PM
in reply to: Hot Runner

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Subject: RE: Training in open water

I agree with the above.  Structured workouts are an important part of swim improvement.  But there's nothing magical about multiples of 100 meters.  You can surely take existing standard swim workouts and adapt to your environment.  If the workout says to do 10x100 hard on 15s rest and you are doing 10x120 or 10x85 it isn't really a big deal.

I would wear the wetsuit enough to be comfortable in it, but I wouldn't wear it as a habit.  I think you will be a better swimmer (says this not very good swimmer) if you practice without the wetsuit most of the time.

2018-08-15 7:24 AM
in reply to: cycletherapy

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Subject: RE: Training in open water
Another good way to measure is using mapmyrun.com (just remember to uncheck auto follow roads)...at least it's good if you have enough landmarks to work with and swim a fairly straight line.
2018-08-15 10:51 AM
in reply to: cycletherapy

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Subject: RE: Training in open water
First, how can I figure out how far I'm swimming? It's not like I can ride it out with my bike.
- Do you have a GPS watch that tracks open water swimming? If so, run it a few times and get a goo average. Also consider trying a program like map my run to get a general idea.

Second, I figure I'll train in the lake, rather than at the local pool. Is there any advantage to pool training? Am I missing something I should be thinking of?
- Pool training can be very specific for strength, speed and drill work. You can get a lot done in the pool. Open water is great as well as there's only so much you can simulate in the pool. I'd suggest some pool training.

Third, should I train in my wetsuit? I'm assuming I'll race in my wetsuit.
- Train with what you will race with. I'd also train without it as some events may not be wetsuit legal. Also try speed suits if you want to add that to your gear.
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