Tips to improve your open water swimming

Tips to improve your open water swimming

Today on TRI with CoachParry there is a great question which came from our CoachParry Online Training Club about open water swimming. How is it best to translate performances in the pool to open water? Rudolf gives some great tips to maximize and improve your open water swimming training.

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How to improve your open water swim


Brad Brown: Welcome onto yet another edition of Tri with Coach Parry, my name is Brad and we’ve got our triathlon coach, Rudolf Naude with us once again. Rudolf, welcome back, nice to touch base once again.

Rudolf Naude: Hi Brad, thanks for having me again.

BB: No stress mate. We’ll talk some swimming today and it’s a question that popped up in our forums on and I think it’s a great question because I think it’s something a lot of people struggle with.

Most of us who are training for triathlon spend most of our time in the swimming pool and this question popped up saying: I’m swimming well in the pool, but as soon as I get into open water my performances aren’t living up to what I should be doing according to my numbers in the pool.

Rudolf, what can you do to improve your open water swimming performance? Is it a case of just swimming in open water as much as you can? I know for a lot of people that’s not really an option, but is there anything you can do in the pool that’s going to equate and go across to open water swimming to improve your performance in the open water?


Ideal versus reality


RN: In an ideal world we’d like to be able to train open water once or twice a week, depending on where you live and the availability off the water. People need to remember that swimming open water and in a pool, your strokes are completely different because in an open water setting there’s 50-60-100 however many people around you.

You can’t have your normal natural swimming stroke and also, there’s not a black line to guide you nicely.

You have to look up, your stroke changes as soon as you look up, you need to sight for the buoys, if there’s wind, there might be waves. If you’re swimming in the sea, there’s also waves. There’s a lot of factors to take into account. Your swimming pool stroke and your open water stroke will definitely be different.

The ideal setting would be to train in open water, but I know that’s not difficult, but what you can do at your local pool or with the training squad that you are, or if you’re just [** 0.12.28], try and simulate a racing type of simulation.

Let’s say if you’re swimming in a 25m pool, swim three guys in a lane, 25m, sprint a few and then just swim a few lengths easy, three in a lane, so that you are used to someone hitting you every now and again or you can’t do your stroke fully and correctly like you normally would, so that you can simulate being in a race, people hitting you, there’s waves and all of that.

The best thing to do is try and simulate what you can, but ultimately swimming open water would be the best advice that I can give you.

BB: Rudolf, it’s interesting, you spoke about having people around you swimming, but often, and I’m probably a good example of this, the only time I ever swim in a wetsuit is in races because I generally only do my swimming in a pool, in an indoor pool and then I get to a race and that makes a big difference too, having a wetsuit on as opposed to not.

RN: The wetsuit also constricts your body a lot. I know there’s a lot of top brand wetsuits, the wetsuits are thinner around the shoulder but if you’re a natural swimmer, you still feel it. Even if you’re not a natural swimmer, you can still feel the extra buoyancy, your shoulders get a lot more tried and sore quicker when you’re swimming.

Ideally, every now and again swim in the pool with your wetsuit but also do short, sharp sessions and remember to rinse your wetsuit straight after swimming in the pool because the chlorine eats the rubber and you don’t want to spend 5-6K on a wetsuit every other month just because you’re training in it.

If you are fortunate and you have two wetsuits, you can use your old wetsuit as your training wetsuit, swim once a week in your wetsuit in the pool, whether it be at the gym or an outside pool with your mates, swim in your wetsuit so you get used to it and then also race simulation, three in a lane, every once in a while. Hit each other, grab feet, just play around, have a little fun.

It is race simulation because it will happen in a race that someone might grab your feet or dunk your head and then you get flustered because this never happened to you before, but if you do it in a training, in a fun way, you know, I’ve been through this, it’s not so bad, let’s just carry on as we were.

BB: Absolutely, Rudolf, as always, great to catch up. Don’t forget, if you need help with your triathlon journey, be sure to check out our online training platform. Head over to, we’ve got training programmes from beginner, sprint, right through to advanced Ironman. You can get access to all of our training programmes now, plus access to Rudolf and the rest of our coaches.

There’s strength and conditioning programmes in there and a whole lot more as well, just head over to, you’ll get access to our very easy to use IOS and Android mobile app as well and you get all your training and your coach in your pocket, so go check that out.

Until next time, from myself, Brad and Rudolf, it’s cheers.

RN: Cheers Brad, thanks for having me.

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