Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Open Water Race

Top 10 Ways To Improve Your Open Water Race

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Whether you are new to the open water swimming community, a veteran open water racer, or a triathlete, below are 10 simple ways to improve your open water race experience and competitiveness in shoreline mass participation races.

1. Expect The Unexpected

From currents and weather, to course layout, the start and finish structure, the competition and even marine wildlife, it is important to remember that many things are out of your control in the open water.

If you want to improve your race, keep an open mind and get comfortable expecting the unexpected. 

2. Work On Your Navigational IQ

Navigational IQ is your ability to adapt to the conditions and find the fastest route through the course. Swimmers quickly realize the fastest race isn’t always the shortest course. With changing currents, waves, fog, and relative positioning of the competitors, you must learn to adapt to changes, and continually seek the most advantageous path. Good navigational IQ will give you an edge over others. 

3. Master The Art Of The Draft

The key to drafting is a matter of positioning yourself relative to other swimmers and using the slipstream of a swimmer in front of you in order to gain speed or reduce effort. If the pace is slow, draft at the feet of the lead swimmer.

However, if the pace is fast, you can draft off the knee or hip of the lead swimmer. Mastering the draft allows you to swim smarter, not harder. 

4. Learn To Swim Without Swallowing Water

An open water swimming course can be turbulent and can cause many swimmers to swallow water, especially while swimming into the waves. To avoid this, open your lips only slightly – contorting your mouth to get air from the far corner of the mouth on the side you’re breathing. As you swim, be sure to exhale immediately when your face is in the water though both your nose and mouth.

5. Know Your Competition

In a race, swimmers use different tactics to take advantage of their strengths and minimize their weaknesses. Some like to push the pace early and others like to negative split and conserve energy until the end. Stronger swimmers can take advantage of being aggressive around turn buoys, while others may want to avoid the pack. Swimmers with better sprinting speed can gain ground in the last 100 meters.

In contrast, slower swimmers will need a larger lead going into the final sprint. While it’s good to have your own strategy and swim your own race, it can also be very helpful to know what your competitors will likely do.

6. Bring Two Of Everything

Prepare yourself by rehearsing race day routines and planning for Murphy’s Law, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. Caps and suits rip, goggles break or get lost.

Having spare essentials of swimsuits, goggles and swim caps will give you the piece of mind to stay focused on your race. 

7. Don’t Forget The Skin Lubricants

Vaseline and other skin lubricants is always helpful on race days. Applying Vaseline on your ankles and outer shoulders can prevent competitors from ziplining you. Ziplining is when a competitor grabs your ankles or lower leg and pulls you back in order to get ahead of you. If their hand feels the Vaseline around your ankles, they may stop or not be able to pull. 

8. Wear Biodegradable Sunscreen

This tip will not improve your speed, but if chemicals in your sunscreen are harming the natural ecosystem, you can do better as a responsible swimmer.

Biodegradable sunscreen will break down in the water so you can stay focused guilt free knowing that you use an environmentally friendly sunscreen that lacks the harmful ingredients that are destroying the world’s coral reefs.

9. Train With A Swim Snorkel

Training with a snorkel can provide a number of benefits.  Swim snorkels are a great investment to help practice your hand path and optimal body position. Snorkel can help you improve by making it possible to monitor your stroke technique and still breathe easily. It also keeps your head still so you can swim straighter and stay centered and focused. Better technique will lead to a better, stronger race.

 10. Dolphin From The Start

A strong start can lead to a strong first half of the race. Dolphining at the start — or pushing off the bottom and diving forward into the water — is a safe, quick, and efficient way to start your race. It helps you get out of the shallow water and is a common technique for triathletes and open swimmers alike. 

Comment and add your own advice on how to improve your open water race in the comment section below.

* If you are in the market for any of the products mentioned in our list check out the affiliate links below. These are products that many experienced open water swimmers use.

Biodegradable Sunscreen : thinksport

FINIS Stability Snorkel

Roka F2 Anti-Fog Low-Drag Swim Goggles

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