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by Mallory Mead

October 20, 2011

As the 2011 open water season wraps up, it is time to set sights to the 2012 season. Even though most of our swimmers will be confined to pool training for the months that lay ahead, it’s never too early to start preparing them for the 2012 season. Here are some tips for making all and winter really count for your open water swimmers.

Cold Acclimation

The onset of fall and winter is a great time to focus on cold-water acclimation. Swimming regularly in open water as the water temperature drops allows swimmers to become acclimated gradually. Tell your swimmers to listen to their bodies and shorten swim time as needed. Be cautious, and provide boat or paddler support. Know the signs of hypothermia.

Increase Speed

Winter is also a good time to work on getting faster. Once summer rolls around, open water swimmers tend to focus on endurance and maximizing yardage. Use the winter months to focus on increasing their speed. An improvement in threshold speed will translate to an improvement in speed at all distances.

Brush Up On Technique

If they need to make changes to their strokes, now is the time to do it. Major changes can take months of practice to get used to, so starting now will give them plenty of time to become comfortable before the next season rolls around.

Think Outside the Pool

Mix it up in the pool by adding in some open water-specific pool drills. Have them swim three to a lane side-by-side to acclimate to competitor contact, or take the lane lines out and add a few buoys to make a mini open-water course. Practice dolphin dives in the shallow end, and help them learn how to swim straight (eyes closed!), and mix in some sighting drills or heads-up freestyle.

Find Summer Weather

It’s always summer somewhere! There are plenty of companies that offer open water swimming camps and trips to tropical locales that serve as the perfect antidote to the pool swimming blues.

Mallory Mead is an open water swimmer and coach who specializes in marathon distances and channel swims. She was the 39th person in the world to complete the “Triple Crown” of marathon swimming, consisting of the 21-mile English Channel, the 21-mile Catalina Channel, and the 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Marathon Swim. She keeps an open water-themed blog at her website,