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Outdoor Swimming practice - Exercises, drills and tips

Pool Training Techniques

Article by Adam Cowell


In an open-water race, you may often find yourself swimming with a large group of people. Draft another swimmer or swimmers to gain additional speed without using additional energy. Drafting can also allow you to rest while still maintaining a good pace.

How to:

• Essentially you want to swim in the wake of another swimming thereby avoiding fresh unbroken water and using this to pull you along by reducing water resistance.


• TOE DRAFTING - With another swimmer of a similar speed, practice swimming behind the lead swimmer as close as possible to the feet of the lead swimmer. Alternate to compare the effects of the draft.

• HIP DRAFTING - With another swimmer of a similar speed, practice swimming on the hip of the lead swimmer with your head about halfway down the body of the lead swimmer. Take your breaths towards the swimmer to maintain proximity to the swimmer and avoid swallowing choppy water.


Drafting is a great way to save energy however, it is also a great way to get lost. Make sure your lead swimmer knows where they are going to avoid taking a detour mid race!


Starting a race / event can be a crucial and dangerous time. Practice these starts to ensure a clean break away from the start line.

Group start during an outdoor swimming event. Aaquatics.
Group start during an outdoor swimming event


• GROUP STARTS - Gather some swimmers together in a line, bunch up close to mimic the beginning of a race. Call out a 3, 2, 1, Go and everyone begin swimming. When practicing these starts you can decide whether to pull ahead, head off to the side or remain behind a swimmer in a draft position. 

• DIVE START - Practice diving into the water with a shallow race dive and begin your front crawl. I advised limiting these starts to only CLEAR WATER as it may be dangerous to dive into water you cannot see into.


When swimming in open water, it is essential in any situation to know where you are, where you have to go and what you need to avoid. 


• Swim normal front crawl however, every 5 breaths upon breathing lift your head forward minimally bringing your eyes only out of the water before turning your head to the side to breath. When looking in front of you, sight what is ahead of you to assess where you need to swim to.

Eyes closed front crawl

When swimming in open water you may not be able to see below the water. Therefore, it can be difficult to swim straight as there are no visual markers below the surface to reference. Good to practice with sighting. 


***It is advised to practice this in pairs, with one of you not participating in the drill acting as a buddy for the other and making sure they avoid injury.

• Swim a length with your eyes shut, breathing every two strokes as usual. Sight every five strokes to assess the course and adapt as necessary.

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