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OWS: Your New Favorite Acronym

This article was originally written for the Target Corporate Tri Team

The signs of another summer are here in Minneapolis – the Thursday famers market on the Nicollet Mall, Tin Fish is open and Music at the Zoo is back. That also means it is time for open water swimming (ows). Follow these pointers to make your swim less stressful:

Training in the Pool
– Practice your open water swim skills in the pool first. Change your normal stroke rhythm to include sighting work. Sight more often than you think you need to.
– Also, include a few hypoxic sets in the pool (where you restrict your breath to every 5th, 7th or 9th stroke). The physiological benefits are weak at best. However, you’ll need to get used to the idea of skipping a breath once in a while since in open water a wave or another swimmer might be in your way when you turn your head to breathe.

Training in Open Water
– Drink a warm beverage before entering cold water. It can raise your core temperature by a degree (that’s actually a lot) and help keep you warm. Put water in your wetsuit before you get in the lake so the water between your skin and the suit heats up.
– Once you enter the water keep moving. Don’t stand around and think you will adjust. Keep walking then progress to a modified breast stroke with your head above water and work on regulating your breath. Once your breath has normalized switch to front crawl and begin your swim set. Remaining calm and controlling your breath is the single most important thing in the swim.
– Instead of sighting using the buoys, which can disappear into a rising sun or in even the smallest of waves, look for a larger target in the distance that is line with the buoy and focus on that. This could be a building or other major landmark on the shore.

Race Day
– Beginners should line up on the waaaaaaay outside of the pack to let the faster swimmers take the inside route. Start slow. Really slow. I mean, really, really, slow. Keep your wide line around the turns, staying a full 15 to 30 feet away from the turn buoy to avoid the human pile up that occurs in every race.
– Faster swimmers should take the inside line and push the start of the swim a little faster than what is sustainable in an attempt to keep up with slightly faster swimmers and get sucked into the draft pack.
– If you own a wetsuit, lube the bottom 8 – 12 inches of the suit so it slides off easier in T1.
– If you plan on renting or buying your first wetsuit go for a sleeveless model (a.k.a. a “John” or “Farmer John”). They are less restrictive and feel more natural in the water. Be sure to practice in your wetsuit before race day.

Final Thoughts
– In the history of the sport of triathlon no one has every credited a PR or podium appearance to their swim splits. Unless you race elite please treat the swim for what it is – a nice warm up before you bike and run.

Article contributed by Minneapolis-based coach Scott Beesley. He misses his old home in Florida where every morning began with an ocean swim. Free tips at www.solesinspired.com, www.facebook.com/SolesInspired, and www.youtube.com/SolesInspired . He can be reached at coachbees@solesinspired.com.

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