Adapt Your Race Stroke For Open-Water Swimming

  • By Sara McLarty
  • Published Jul 1, 2015
Athletes swim at Ironman France. Photo: Thierry Deketelaere/Endurapix

Adjust your technique to accommodate the various conditions you’ll face outside of the pool.

Open-water swimming forces you to face factors like wind, currents and waves that you never experience during pool training. No matter how hard you work in the pool to develop a perfect and flawless stroke, all that effort is lost if you can’t adapt to challenging race conditions. Try these tips to edit your stroke technique for certain situations:

Crowded starts

Quick cadence: Increase your stroke tempo when you are in crowds of people at the start or around buoys. This is not efficient for long periods of time but it will help you maintain your speed when you are pressed for space.

Choppy conditions

High-hand recovery: Lift your hand high above the surface of the water during recovery in wavy and choppy conditions. This will prevent you from slamming your hand into a rogue wave during the recovery phase.

Single-side breathing: Breathe to one side in open water when the wind and waves are buffeting you on the other side. Take note that you are more likely to swim crooked but you will not intake as much unwanted seawater.

Armpit breathing: Turn your face toward your armpit when you breathe. Your head, shoulder, back and recovering arm will block most of the spray and create a cove of air for a clean inhale.

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