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Ask Coach Sara: Simulating Open Water And More

What’s a good way to simulate open-water training without a lake or ocean nearby?

Your Twitter questions about swimming as a triathlete, answered by coach Sara McLarty.

Q: What’s a good way to simulate open-water training without a lake or ocean nearby?

Re-create the chaos of open water by training with other people in your lane. Try a set of 8x25s with three people side-by-side-by-side. Prepare for continuous swimming in open-water by doing a long pool swim without touching or pushing off the walls. Train in your wetsuit to get comfortable with the additional constriction before your first open-water swim.

Q: What’s the most effective way to incorporate fins and paddles into your swim workout?

Fins are a great tool to build leg, hip and core strength. Try them during short kicking sets to get a feel for the water and improve technique. Use fins for “free speed” when doing slow and difficult stroke drills. Paddles should only be incorporated into training when stroke technique is correct. Bigger is not better when it comes to paddle size. Build your total yardage with paddles slowly over time.

Q: When a workout says 6×200, do you do them in a row with rest breaks or swim easy in between?

A swim set will typically be written like this: 6×200 pull w/ 20 sec rest (descend 1–6). The first part, “6×200,” is self-explanatory. “Pull” refers to using training equipment like a pull buoy or paddles. “W/ 20 sec rest” indicates that you rest on the wall for 20 seconds after you complete a 200 before starting the next one. “Descend time 1–6” are example instructions indicating how to pace the 200s. The goal is to descend the time, or go faster, for each consecutive 200.

Q: My legs always feel like they are dragging during the swim. What can I do to bring my legs up and be a more efficient swimmer?
–Charles Oehrlein

Try a simple drill like floating on the surface of the water. Arch your back, push your hips down, and notice how your hips and legs float closer to the surface. Complete core strength is critical to maintain balance in the water. Add back, oblique and other swim-specific exercises to your gym routine.

Q: No matter the pace, I always feel out of breath while swimming. What is the proper breathing technique?
–John Quirke

Create a personalized breathing pattern that is comfortable. The most common is to breathe every third stroke, but a pattern like 2-2-3-2-2-3 is also considered bilateral breathing. Exhale slowly and continuously out of your nose while underwater. If this is difficult, try humming a tune. After your arm passes your head underwater, roll your face to the side and take a sharp, quick inhale through your mouth.

Got a swimming question? Coach Sara wants to help. Just tweet your queries to @SaraLMcLarty.

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