Improve your open water swimming

Improve your open water swimming

Working on your technique - especially dealing with waves and sighting - will enhance both your enjoyment and triathlon times. World record-breaking swimmer Dr Julie Bradshaw shows you how...

So now you have the bug and are enjoying your open water swimming. It’s time you say to yourself: "I want to improve."

For some, it’s to be able to swim easier in outdoor waters, and for others, it's about improved performance in events and getting a PB.

While there is a lot of information on the internet, nothing beats finding out from someone who knows - a coach, one who has been there, can walk the talk and who knows from experience what to do.

Here are two of my key tips to enhance your open water swimming:

How to deal with waves/swells

I have found over the many years I have been swimming that understanding how to cope with adverse weather conditions is a big advantage, especially against less-knowledgeable swimmers.

To ensure a breath at the right moment means ‘watching the waves’ and for me, it’s about a ‘feeling’ when to take the breath. This means I don’t take on board either lake or sea water.

It’s about coordinating and for this purpose plenty of practice outside really helps.

Every swimmer I speak to has a preference for a breathing pattern and one side they get more air from. Therefore, it is especially important to practice breathing on both sides in a pool.


Butterly with swimmersFor many swimmers, the ability to go in a straight line in open water can make the difference between winning and losing a race.

And other swimmers who take part for the fun of it can enhance their open water swimming by improving their ‘sighting’ techniques.

The only way to improve this is to practice and to keep practising, even in a pool - for example, every few strokes ‘sight’ by taking an object on deck, one which is stationary.

I have known swimmers in open water who fix their eyes on an object which is moving! Pick something that is NOT moving and an object (perhaps a hill, church spire) that is in the direction you want to go.

Check out the swim course or lake beforehand as this can often help.

Views from water level and through goggles can change things.

A quick glimpse is all you need, while simply raising your head within your arm stroke – you only need to just get the eyes out of the water.

Then again another way to keep straight is to draft off a swimmer of similar ability, which saves you doing all the work of sighting!

Windermere swim campMany swimmers I have coached have attended open water swim camps and swim clinics throughout the year.

It is a great way to work on skills which help you get better in open water as well as forming friendships with plenty of like-minded people.

I offer swim clinics during winter when swimmers get a chance to look at their stroke and have it analysed before transferring into the open water during the summer months.
Click here for Julie's camps & clinics

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