Get Ready for Open Water

Coach Mike Ricci in a wetsuit about to dive into the water
April 28, 2022

Dave Sheanin


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We’re already a month into spring and it’s time to start thinking about getting ready for open water swimming (and racing).  Following is a quick triathlon swim checklist with notes for you to be considering before your first race.

1. Check your wetsuit.  

triathlon training open water swimming
  • Does it need any repairs?  Look for small holes that need patching before they become bigger issues.  Check the zipper to make sure it’s moving smoothly.  
  • Is it time for a new wetsuit?  It may come as a surprise to a lot of triathletes, but wetsuits wear out, losing elasticity and function over time.  I replace my wetsuit every three years or so (same as the interval for replacing my bike helmet, by the way).
  • If you stored the suit folded up (which is not a great idea), unfold it and hang it on a wetsuit hanger.  
  • Does your wetsuit still fit?  Depending on how well I avoided the cookie jar over the winter, I sometimes find that my wetsuits have mysteriously shrunk by the time spring rolls around.

2. Check your goggles.

  • How old are your goggles?  If you’ve been using your goggles all winter in the pool, it may be time to replace them.  Are they staying fog free?  Leak free?  Scratch free?  Are the straps still flexible and pliant? 
  • Actually, buy two or three pairs of goggles.  It’s a great idea to have a pair of goggles that you use exclusively for indoor swimming (light/no tint) and then two more pairs (both mirrored for open water: one light tint for cloudy days + one dark tint for bright days).
triathlete swim training in swimming pool

3. Change up your pool swimming.

  • Add some longer sets (like 500s or longer and/or consider swimming by time–like sets of 3x 10’).  As you approach open water training and racing, it’s time to change up some of your pool sets.  A sprint in the pool might be 25 or 50 meters.  A sprint in triathlon is 750 meters. Get used to the longer, continuous sets.
  • Add some sighting to your swims.  You can pick your head up and sight two or three times per 25 during some prep sets in the pool.  You can stand your water bottle at the end of the lane as a target to sight upon. 

4. Add some swim/bike bricks.

  • A lot of triathletes seem to be under the misimpression that running off the bike is the only kind of brick workout.  News flash!  You’ll be biking off the swim on race day.  Make sure you’re practicing that combination (and transition) as well. 

5. Acclimate to cooler water temperatures.

  • If you have an early-season race where you expect to be swimming in colder water temperatures (I think of anything below 60 degrees as cold race temps), you can work on acclimating to the cold by taking cool (and even cold) showers.  Even though it’s a little uncomfortable in the shower, just a few minutes a day in the two to three weeks leading up to your race will make a difference in helping your body perform in colder water on race day.

Bonus tip:  for some triathletes open water swimming can be an obstacle to fully enjoying race day.  If you would like to break through those barriers, consider a consult with Mental Skills Performance Coach Will Murray.

Coach Dave Sheanin was recently honored by USA Triathlon with the Community Impact Award and he is an advocate for aligning triathletes with their race goals.  His specialties include coaching age groupers with busy schedules and helping triathletes improve their transition times.  Dave is a USA Triathlon and Training Peaks Certified Coach.

Coach Dave Sheanin is an advocate for aligning triathletes with their race goals. He believes that becoming “triathlon literate” is key to meeting your goals. Triathlon is indeed a lifestyle and like the other important areas of your life, knowledge is power. He encourages you to explore the nuances of the sport, be open to new ideas and ask questions – of yourself, of fellow swimmers, cyclists and runners, and of your coach.  

Coach Dave is a USA Triathlon and Training Peaks Certified Coach.  Coach Dave was honored by USA Triathlon with the Community Impact Award.

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