Improve your open water swimming
So now you've got the bug, and you're enjoying your open water swimming. It’s time you say to yourself; "I want to improve." Working on your technique will enhance both your enjoyment and triathlon times. World record-breaking swimmer Dr Julie Bradshaw shows you how.

Improve your open water swimming

Whether you're looking to improve your performance and set that new personal best or just be able to make swimming outdoors more comfortable and more enjoyable, focussing on technique can make a dramatic difference.

While there is a lot of information out there, 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 we'll focus on two key area of open water swimming; Dealing with waves/swells and sighting.

How to deal with waves/swells

I have found over the many years that understanding how to cope with adverse weather conditions is a significant 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 particular breathing pattern as they get more air from one side. Therefore, it is especially important to practice breathing on both sides in a pool.


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

Many 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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