Make the Most of Indoor Pool Training, For Open Water Swim Success

Triathlon training in New England is not for the faint of heart.  Based on the “spring” we’ve had so far, we are left wondering if we’ll EVER get outside to do some open water swims!  While open water swimming is imperative to swimming confidently and strong in a triathlon, indoor swimming provides lots of benefits to prepare you for open water swims.  Read on to learn how to make the most of your pool swims and you’ll be ready for a successful race season when warmer weather FINALLY arrives.

Drills– The pool is the perfect place to practice drills.  While there are countless swim drills that will help technique, my favorites for triathlon include the 6 kick, swimming with a band, one arm pull, skate, and catch – up drills.  The best way to learn which drills will help you the most is to join a coached swim group or take private lessons with an instructor.  Having a professional evaluate your swim stroke will help you swim stronger and more efficiently.

Speed– Indoor swimming is perfect for working on speed because you have a measured distance that you can time easily as well as the ability to stand at the wall for the necessary recovery between intervals.  By doing speed sets in an indoor pool, you are able to compare your times throughout your training and see your improvement.  A coach can help you determine what speed sets are appropriate for your fitness and race goals.

Sighting– Being able to properly sight during an open water swim can make the difference between an okay swim and a great swim.  Practicing sighting in the pool by picking a stationary object in as a target to swim towards while help you learn how to sight in open water.  Sighting in the pool is often easier when first learning this skill so use this time to really hone it.

Partner and Group Swimming– Triathlon swims are usually mass or group starts, so it is important to get comfortable swimming with others.  Practicing in the pool can be a lot less intimidating than trying it in open water. It’s invaluable to have your swim partners “battle” with you in the pool: swim over each other, kick each other, pull off goggles, grab feet…all of these can and will happen in open water swim and you need to be comfortable with this happening while swimming.  Partner or group swimming can also help you practice drafting off faster swimmers, navigating around slower swimmers, and pushing yourself harder during a workout.  

Transitions – Triathlon is unique in that you need to change equipment during the race and are timed while doing it.  Many people can lose a lot of time in the transitions and it can impact their race result.  Indoor training can help you practice transitions since you have a safe place to set up your transition area.  Finish your swim at perceived race effort then hop out of the pool quickly and get ready for your bike.  Whether you actually hop on the bike for a ride or not depends on your workout for the day, but it is good practice to get comfortable and efficient putting on equipment while wet and out of breath.

Bricks– If your schedule for the day includes a swim and bike, practice doing them as a brick workout (biking immediately after your swim).  Depending on the weather, you can bike indoors or outside.  It is important for you to get comfortable biking right after the swim to teach your body how to quickly adjust blood flow from a horizontal position to a more vertical position.  Brick workouts also help strengthen your muscular endurance for triathlon.  Practicing your fueling during these workouts is extremely important as well.  If your schedule allows, it’s great to practice a “mini” triathlon by training through all three disciplines as well as the two transitions.

By developing these important triathlon skills during your indoor training, you will be primed and ready for your best racing when summer arrives!

~Courtney Kutler - Outrival Racing Coach

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