This week I have been in touch with Gary Emich, he has very kindly allowed me to re post the following article which initially appeared in USA Triathlon Magazine in Spring 2009. Gary is an incredible human being, with many many swims to his name, he is the world record holder for The Alcatraz Challenge swim, today his count stands at 701 ! yes that's seven hundred and one swims unaided across the once thought of impossible stretch of water. He states that every Wednesday is Alcatraz day and that he plans to stop when he reaches 1000. I highly recommend his DVD "LANE LINES TO SHORE LINES" Whilst the article was targeted at triathletes it is excellent advice to all open water swimmers..Enjoy and thanks again to Gary.
Did you know a 1.5k open water swim can be up to 39 percent longer than its swimming pool equivalent?
In a 25-yard pool, my stroke count is 18 strokes per length or 1,188 for l.5k (18 strokes x 66 lengths). I recently swam in a 50-yard pool (yes, yards not meters) and thought 36 strokes would take me end to end. Imagine my surprise when it took me 43 strokes. Because there was a marker at the halfway point, I counted the number of strokes during the first 25 yards and during then second 25 yards, Sure enough, 18 strokes got me halfway across but it took me another 25 strokes to finish the length since I had no wall to push off during the second half. Extrapolating this to a 1.5k open water swim I'll take 1,650 strokes (25 strokes x 66 lengths) or 39 percent more to cover the same distance as in a 25-yard pool. This is huge!
Does this also affect my time? You bet! In a 25-yard pool, I swim 1.5k in 27:50 or 25.3 seconds per 25 yards. During my 50yard pool session, instead of 50.6 seconds length (2 x 25.3), it took me 55.0 seconds: 25.3 seconds for the first 25 yards when I pushed off the wall and 29.7 seconds for the second half without the wall push-off. Extrapolating to open water, I'll swim l.5k in 32:40 (29.7 seconds x 66 lengths) or 17%
longer than in the pool.
So how do pool workouts affect your training and race preparedness?
First and considering the examples above, your average 3,500 yard pool work-out probably is closer to 2,500 yards due to the slingshot effect of pushing off the wall; and your times won't reflect your slower but real open water speed.
Second, since accurate sighting arguably is the least developed swimming skill of most triathletes, the resultant inability to swim a straight line can increase the swim distance up to 5 percent, especially if the course is not marked well.
Third, throw in some current, chop and wind and your l.5k race-day swim is now a formidable challenge, which has been known to cause more than a few triathletes to panic.
Last, If you're like the majority of triathletes for whom the swim is the least favorite, your pool workout likely is the first to fall by the wayside when struggling to balance family, work and training. Bottom line on race day: you swim a longer distance than what you under trained for in a time far slower than you expected.
What's a triathlete to do? The easy answer is to train in open water but this is not practical for most of us during the winter; and admittedly, coached pool workouts (such as U.S. Masters Swimming) afford an opportunity to focus on speed work, drills and technique. Increase the yardage in your workouts to compensate for the yards spent torpedoing off the pool wall on your turns. If your current workout is 3,500 yards, increase it to 4,500 yards. But make sure they're quality yards with emphasis on streamlining your
body movement through the water:
Maximize your open water swimming to the extent possible so you are conditioned to swim race distances without the push off "rest" every 25 yards and so you swim effectively without the training wheel effect of lanes and black lines. Most swimmers in open water swim one straight long set but with a little creativity and imagination you can create and simulate a pool workout complete with a warm-up, drills, intervals and a cool-down.
Pool swimming does have benefits but just as you don't train exclusively on a treadmill or on a stationary bike, you need to train sufficiently in open water so that you have the poise, confidence and skills necessary to be at the top of your game on race day.