How to Transition from the Pool to Open-Water Swimming

Grow as a swimmer when you transition from the pool to open-water swimming

The thought of swimming in open water can cause anxiety and feel overwhelming if you’re used to the clear waters of a pool. But don’t worry! It’s not as daunting as it seems. Transitioning to open-water swimming can be done easily by following some helpful tips. If you want to become comfortable or get more comfortable with open-water-swimming, then you must swim in open waters regularly. Take note, all but one of our tips can be done in the pool! Get started today with our advice and you’ll become more and more comfortable with open-water swimming over time.

6 ways to become more comfortable with open-water swimming

1) Keep your eyes closed

Open water won’t have the helpful black lines.

While swimming in the pool, keep your eyes closed for several strokes. Increase the number of strokes as you become more comfortable. This will help you get a feel for swimming straight without needing to use the black line at the bottom of the pool as a reference. You still want to wear your swim goggles at all times in the pool and in open water. Make sure you have swim goggles that fit you best and are helpful in both environments.

2) Start fast

When you swim in open water, you need to make a quick start. This helps participants get their position right and then settle down. While in the pool, start quickly and then settle down to a pace that suits you. Practice this regularly so your body becomes more familiar with this approach.

3) Practice sighting

Practice sighting in the pool so you become familiar with it.

Sighting means you focus on something far away while open-water swimming. Focusing on that will help keep you from veering off course. To practice sighting, you need to synchronize looking ahead with your stroke and breathing. Look at a target at the end of the lane, swim for two strokes, look at your target, repeat. Gradually, increase the number of strokes. This will help you become more comfortable with sighting in open water and keep you on course. Don’t swim extra if you don’t have to!

4) Learn to be efficient

In order to be an efficient swimmer, you need to reduce your stroke count for each lap. Sighting will help you become more efficient too. It takes fewer strokes and less energy if you swim in a straight line versus zig-zagging in the water. Taking in the right amount of oxygen when you breathe can help you become efficient too. Keep your form the same as often as you can so you don’t over-extend yourself and feel like you have to play catch up.

5) Wear your wetsuit

Become familiar with your wetsuit before your event.

If you plan to wear a wetsuit during your event, you need to become familiar with it before race day. If you do this in the pool, know that the chlorine can be harmful to your wetsuit. Wearing it before your race allows you to gauge the buoyancy of the wetsuit and its impact on your form and stroke. Follow this helpful advice to care for your wetsuit and get the most use out of it.

6) Swim in open water

This would be a great time to get familiar with your wetsuit! Find a lake or other body of water to practice open-water swimming. Doing this before race day will help you prepare for what you’ll experience on race day. This is where all the work you’ve done in the pool gets used. You won’t have a black line to guide you, so sighting will be imperative so you can swim efficiently. 

Practice swimming in open water before race day.

This advice will be beneficial in helping you transition from the familiarity of the pool to the uncertainty of open-water swimming. As you practice in the pool, find what works for you and stick with it. Repetition in the pool is what will help you when you need it during your event. This Rookie Tri blog has some additional helpful advice to help you get over your fear of open-water swimming. Ask other triathletes for their tips and advice. Who knows, something they do might be useful for you.