As the race season slowly gets closer, this set helps “remind” your body what it feels like to swim in the open water.

As triathletes, it’s super important to remember that despite all of the swimming we do in the pool, the vast majority of our racing happens in the open water. With that said, the cold hard truth is that swimming in the open water is very different than pool swimming. There are no sides to hold onto, no lane lines to keep you swimming straight, and no protocol for personal space or rules of contact that we enjoy at the gym. Because of this, it’s super important that triathletes do as much open-water-specific work as possible to properly prepare for race day. While many triathletes may not have access to open water or a group of training partners to snuggle up within a tight lane to simulate race-day contact, there are still things we can do to get ready on our own in the pool.

For most of North America, the full race season is still a month or two off, but now is the time to remind your body that open-water swimming is nothing like swimming in the pool. We need to have realistic expectations on how much work we have ahead of us and how much open-water prep we need to do long before race week. The earlier we get familiar with those uncomfortable open-water sensations, the better.

While this set is ideally performed with training partners next to you for the 25s, do your best with what you’ve got. Be sure to focus far less on the times you’re hitting (for the most part, the times in this workout are like apples to oranges for normal pool sets, save yourself some frustration and let go of the clock) and more on keeping your heart-rate low, finding ways to be “comfortably uncomfortable,” and working more on your open-water form—keeping your head as low as you can while still sighting, getting back up to speed smoothly on the wall-less turns, and treading water efficiently on the simulated starts.

Warm-up:
200 easy swim
4×100 as drill 50/swim 50
4×50 as 25 head-up swimming at a Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE) of 7/10; 25 easy

Main Set:
2x

(4×25 swim at RPE of 9/10, tread water to start, next to training partners; :20 rest treading water
4×100 swim at RPE of 6/10, sighting every seven strokes; :20 rest on wall
3×100 swim at RPE of 7/10, sighting every five strokes, no walls; :20 rest treading water
2×100 swim at RPE of 8/10, sighting every three strokes; :20 rest on wall
200 pull at RPE of 5/10)

Cool-down:
200 pull easy

Total: 3,400