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6 Ways to Improve Your Open Water Swimming Technique

2016/7/21 10:45:26

Open water swimming can present more challenges than just a regular swim in the pool. It's important to modify your technique and training to help you work with the many obstacles that come with swimming in currents and choppy water.

Steve Munatones is a swim coach and owner of openwatersource.com. He spends his days swimming and coaching open water swimming and knows just about everything there is to know about the sport and how to be successful in it.

If you're transitioning from the pool to open water, his open water swimming tips are a great place to start.

Focus on a Balanced Body

In open water, your environment is going to be anything but balanced. There are currents, waves and choppy waters so you need balance and to have a nice even stroke.

"The most difficult thing for most new swimmers to do is to swim straight in the open water. This means that your propulsion from both your right arm and left should be equal," Munatones says. "While bilateral breathing is not an absolute requirement, it does help create a balanced stroke that enables you to swim straight when there are no lines, lanes or walls."

Munatones also cautions against the crossover kick many swimmers seem to develop. It causes swimmers to veer to the right or the left, wasting energy in open water.

To avoid this, pay attention to your kick as you practice in the pool and work to make it even. Focus on preventing your legs from crossing over one another as you rotate to breathe.

Keep a Look Out

While a head-down stroke is great in the pool, open water swimming doesn't allow for the same visibility. Modify your stroke in order to see where you're going and keep an eye on those around you in races.

More: 7 Tips for Swimming Newbies

A Stronger Kick and Modified Stroke

To counteract open water conditions, you're going to have to work harder than you would in the pool, part of what makes the sport such a challenge. Munatones recommends a stronger kick to help fight against currents and a modified arm stroke to deal with choppy water.

"There are certain little techniques, like swinging your arms over the water when there is heavy surface chop, under difficult conditions," Munatones says.

"You also want to kick faster if you're coming into shore and there is the possibility of catching a wave to the finish."

"But above all else, a strong core will help you deal with many open water conditions The ability to hold your body firm is critical when you are facing heavy surface chop," Munatones says.

More: Strength Training for Swimmers

Be Aggressive

The beginning of open water races are much like road races, lots of people jostling for position. If you want to be competitive, be aggressive at the start. In open water swimming, you can get dunked or struggle if you're not prepared. "There are some Alpha swimmers that won't think twice about dunking your head or grabbing at your feet," Munatones warns.

If you're new to the sport, stay to the back and to the sides, where it's less aggressive.

More: 3 Essential Open-Water Survival Tips

Master Your Breathing

Another thing to look out for during a race is an unexpected mouth full of water. Concentrate on exactly when you open your mouth to breathe.

"If you leave your mouth open all the time?both under the water and while you are breathing—you are giving yourself more of an opportunity to swallow water," Munatones says. "It is also an advantage to breathe away from the waves and the surface chop. You need to have the ability to breath on both sides in order to deal with what comes your way."

More: Perfect Your Breathing With a Better Body Position

Conserve Energy

When you're utterly exhausted, don't throw in the towel. Switch up strokes to help reclaim some energy. "You do not always need to swim an aerobically challenging freestyle. If you get tired or are nervous, just switch to backstroke or breaststroke until you have either caught your breath or you feel confident," Munatones says.

He also advises to call over a safety person if you feel nervous. Usually if there is a person in a boat, kayak or paddle board nearby, you will feel more comfortable.

Munatones offers one final tip: Before heading into an open water race or training, have an experienced coach check your stroke and offer some tips on your open water swim technique.

More: 4 Ways to Improve Your Swim Technique

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