Now that double-Olympic silver medalist Jazz Carlin has now retired from competitive swimming, she's fallen in love with open-water swimming and triathlon. We asked her to share her top tips on how to adapt your pool technique for the outdoors.
Swimming technique for pool swimming and open water swimming can be very different and can sometimes be challenging to adapt.
If you are swimming in 'flat water,' for example a lake, your stroke shouldn’t change too much as the water feels similar to when you're in the pool.
The main difference is adapting your stroke to incorporate sighting. Ideally, you’d want to sight every six to eight strokes to make sure you are on course. Sighting should just be a part of your stroke, it should go with the same flow of your swimming stroke. When lifting your head try and minimise how much you bring your head out the water. It should be just enough for you to sight the buoy or landmark that you're aiming for. After you’ve located the buoy or landmark, in one movement turn to the side to breathe. This will make your sighting as Smooth as possible.
Another thing you'll need to get used to is swimming in a pack. Some people chose to widen their stroke to give themselves more space in the water.
If you are swimming in the sea or in choppy waters, the conditions are variable and your stroke may have to change even more. It will be easier to lift your hand higher out of the water in choppier conditions. This technique protects your arm stroke and prevents you from swimming into the waves. It may look like more of a straighter arm stroke.
If the waves are hitting you from one side, it will be worth breathing to the opposite side that the waves are hitting you. This allows you to get a full breath in and not have water crashing into you while you’re breathing. Sighting will also become more difficult so you will have to lift your head slightly higher to be able to sight through the waves. Try to remember to stay relaxed in these conditions as we are prone to rush and get tense, which will tire out your muscles further. Keep your breathing calm as your breathing pattern may be altered in the waves.
Swimming in a group can be quite challenging and quite stressful if you’re not used to this. You will save more energy if you are swimming behind someone or in a pack, so if you can spot someone's feet in front of you, try and stick as close to their feet as possible (without annoying them too much). This will just save your energy but also help you swim faster. Have a practice swimming behind someone in training and get a feel of how close you can swim to someone's feet.
As I said previously, when swimming in a group some people like to widen their swimming stroke - Having a wider arm recovery and entering the water a bit wider. This means you can hold your space in the water and avoid having somebody else's hands and feet hitting you. Give it a try while you are training! A lot of people won’t sight as often or at all when they are swimming in a group, but I think its good to just check in to make sure the group is going the right way. You don’t want to swim any more than you have to.
If you are swimming at an event, always make sure that you familiarise yourself with the course. Some courses may be tricky and you don’t want to get disqualified for swimming the wrong way. Try to find landmarks to look out for in the distance to help with your sighting. I always try to remember the course by making a mental note of whether I will pass the buoy on my left or right shoulder.
Find a swimming tempo or stroke rate that you can hold for your swim. There is nothing worse than starting way too hard and blowing out or starting too slow and having too much energy left. By knowing your stroke tempo will allow you to lock into it from the start and hold it over the course of the race.
In open water swimming, I tend to have a very low kick rate. Your legs are your biggest muscles and will use up the most oxygen so practice keeping your legs steady and focusing more on your arms. Doing a bit more pull and paddles in training can help build up your shoulder and arm strength.