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by Lisa Wolf

October 19, 2012

Virtual open water swimming can help you get ready for the real thing

Open water training creates some unique challenges for Masters coaches. Some have the luxury of open water venues for practice but for most coaches, the pool is still the rule. However, to serve our growing population of triathletes and open water swimmers, we can teach some of the skills necessary for a successful open water event without leaving the pool. These four drills are easy to incorporate into any practice for your open water swimmers and are a fun change of pace for your pool-only swimmers.

  • Close your eyes and swim: Have swimmers push off and swim with their eyes closed for 15–20 strokes. It’s likely they’ll hit the lane lines several times. This reveals an uneven stroke—something that makes it harder to swim a straight course out in the open. Give swimmers one-arm drills to strengthen their less dominant sides.
  • Water polo drill: Have swimmers swim heads-up freestyle, focusing on a fixed point (block, pull buoy, etc) on the opposite end of the pool. This helps build the neck muscle strength necessary for lifting their heads to sight for buoys and gets them used to sighting on a fixed object.
  • Backstroke recovery drill: Have swimmers swim five strokes of freestyle, then roll over and swim four strokes of backstroke, repeating until the wall. Not only is this the preparation for a backstroke flip turn (bonus!), it teaches swimmers to use backstroke should they need a recovery period during an open water swim or to adjust their goggles.
  • Open wall sets:  Swim a set of 6 x 200 free and after the initial push off, each turn is done without touching the wall. This is a tough aerobic workout and good preparation for in-water starts in open water and triathlon events.

These drills are a great way to prepare swimmers for open water. The adage of “never try anything new on race day” is certainly applicable, so taking the time to intersperse these drills into your workouts throughout the season will definitely benefit your swimmers on race day.


  • Technique and Training
  • Open Water
  • Coaches Only


  • Freestyle
  • Competition
  • Pool Open Water
  • Open Water
  • Drills