Summer is the time for triathlons and other open water swimming events. While many swimmers like the challenge of swimming in lakes or oceans, the lack of proper preparation can make these events overwhelming and dangerous.

Swimming in open water is significantly more difficult than swimming in a pool due to potentially rough and murky waters, other creatures swimming with you and water and air temperature variations. The distance you are swimming (whether it’s that far or not) will likely feel farther in the open water than it will in the pool. To make sure you are adequately prepared for any open water swimming event, check out these 5 tips:


1. Work on your technique

Form and technique are essential to increasing your yardage and amount of time spent in open water. Try to avoid over training and lots of sets of continuous swimming back-to-back. Instead, make time for sets that allow you to focus on form and efficiency. Technique work helps improve body alignment and eliminate drag. This will result in less fatigue and chance of injury at increased mileage.

Consider this story from marathon swimmer John Humenik as an example of why technique work is so crucial.

2. Switch up your stroke

Swimming in rough water rather than a pool environment using the same stroke can put you at risk for fatigue and potential injury as it is more difficult on your body overall. Learning to switch up your stroke when you’re feeling tired will help you rest and stretch overworked muscles.

EXPERT TIP: When training, try to find the threshold at which you recover quickest if you switch up your stroke. If you exhaust your muscles too severely when swimming freestyle, you might not be able to switch back causing you to lose time. Instead, try to learn when you need to switch over in order to quickly recover.

3. Wetsuit or no?

Whether or not you will be wearing a wetsuit is something you want to determine earlier in your training rather than later. The decision whether or not to wear one is really conditional upon the temperature of the water. For more information on choosing whether to wear a wetsuit, check out this helpful article.

If you are going to wear a wetsuit, make sure to train in the actual suit you will wear on race day at least a few times before racing in it. The way your limbs move and the way your overall body moves in the water is slightly different in a wetsuit so it’s important to understand how it feels prior to race day.

EXPERT TIP: If your event includes other phases like a triathlon, you should also practice taking the suit off. Nothing is worse that swimming a great time and then losing crucial seconds taking off your wetsuit.

4. Warm up

As we’ve mentioned before, you should be warming up prior to EVERY training session regardless of sport or event, but given the possible variations in conditions, it is especially important to make sure you warm up adequately before any open water swimming training and right before the event. Making sure your muscles are warm enough will help minimize the chance of injury due to cold or overly rough waters.

5. Swim in open water

The most important thing to do to train your body for open water swimming is to swim in open water. Practice will help you overcome any mental or physical barriers toward performing well on the day of your event. Swimming in different water conditions will help your body and mind prepare for whatever race day conditions will actually look like and minimize the chance of surprise.


An open water swimming event can be a challenging and fun endeavor. Proper training and preparation will lessen your chances of injury and mental or physical fatigue and set you up for success in your next event.

The tips above are just the beginning of athlete injury prevention. Check out our FREE Staying on the Field: 7 Tips to Prevent Injuries eBook for more!

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