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How to Do an Open-Water Workout

Open-water workouts can be grueling, and come with risks. Condition yourself to handle the elements and challenges of nature through some proven conditioning routines.


  • : Only trained, experienced swimmers should attempt an open water workout. Never train alone, and don't swim if there's a chance of a storm or severe winds.
  • Step 1: Sprint to start After a warm up, start an open-water workout with a sprint from one buoy to the next. Take a quick rest, then swim to the next buoy. Build up till you're swimming full speed to a total of at least ten buoys, or about 800 yards.
  • Step 2: Practice sighting Practice sighting every six or eight strokes, orienting your swim toward a specific target. Forgetting to look and adjust regularly can add 100 yards or more to your swim.
  • Step 3: Do intervals Pick points about 100 to 150 yards apart, easily visible from the water. Sprint to to one, and then take your time swimming easily back to the other. Do these intervals to allow rest -- but make sure your heart rate stays up.
  • TIP: Some triathletes make the mistake of spending too much time on distance training and not enough time on intervals.
  • Step 4: Sing the alphabet Make a game of practicing, singing the alphabet to yourself as you work, one letter for each arm stroke, to achieve a rhythm while swimming.
  • Step 5: Swim in a line Get three or four teammates to swim in a line on a long straightaway. The last swimmer has to swim past everyone to take the lead. Continue the rotation until you finish the course or everyone gives up. The drill is all about endurance.
  • Step 6: Drill for negative splitting When training for the race, practice negative splitting, which means beginning with a slower speed and gradually picking up speed to simulate a race as it progresses.
  • Step 7: Train indoors Train at least once a week in an Olympic-sized pool, and make turns to approximate those required in open-water courses.
  • FACT: In the first modern Olympic Games in Athens in 1896, the 100-meter and 1500-meter freestyle swimming events were held in open water.

You Will Need

  • Teammates
  • Indoor pool

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