Practice open water swimming.

This rule applies to any and all triathletes taking part in a race where the swim leg takes place in open water.

Practicing open water swimming allows you to prepare mentally and physically for swimming in a large body of water with currents and even small waves.

Furthermore, it is an important exercise because you now have to swim without a lane line beneath you, a wall to push off of and the ability to put your feet down when you need a little recovery.

Here are a few things to focus on while you practice your open water swim:
  1. Remaining relaxed will help you to build your open water swimming confidence. That is what it is all about.
  2. Be sure to practice sighting and developing a strategy for sighting. Terry Laughlin from Total Immersion recommends you do not completely raise your head out of the water (to limit fatigue), but rather "surf your goggles" just above the water surface and take a mental snap shot of target. Look up every 4 - 6 strokes.
  3. Swimming with other swimmers around you can lead to increased stress and anxiety, so if at all possible, practice your open water swim with others.
  4. Drafting behind other swimmers can reduce your energy expenditure, but requires practice. So when practicing in open water, try to do it in a small group!
  5. Just because you are no longer in the pool, it does not mean you should forget everything you have learned while swimming indoors. Maintaining good form and pacing strategy are are even more important in the open water.

Do not leave it till race day before you get into the open water. Start practicing in open water now. Just like any other racing skill, it requires continuous practice and attention before you can become competent and confident.

James Greenwood is a competitive tri and multisport athlete currently training for Ironman Canada 2009. A level 1 Triathlon Coach, he holds a post graduate degree in Exercise Science, and is a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through the NSCA. James is also currently the resident health and fitness programs expert at, and has starred in a number of multisport specific fitness videos.
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