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5 Tips for Open Water Triathlon Swim Training

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Thursday, June 14, 2012
in Training

Rescue Tube / Swim BuoyI wrote a blog post last month about overcoming swim anxiety in triathlons and my experience earlier this year at the Bassman Half Ironman where I had an anxiety attack in the water during the race. I mentioned in the post that the only way to get comfortable in open water is to get out of the pool and start training in a lake/river. There are many, many benefits to training in open water.  Reducing swim anxiety is just one of them. Of course, you want to be sure you take all the necessary safety precautions if you hope to truly stay safe and relaxed in the water.

  1. Never swim alone - There are plenty of triathlon clubs and swim groups that have organized or semi-organized swims in open water. Also, if you get involved in your local club there will always be people that are looking for training partners. We are all in the same boat (no pun intended)....No one wants to train alone in open water, and everyone knows the value of doing it on a regular basis.
  2. Be aware of your surroundings - Swimmers often share the open water with boats, jet skis, canoes, etc. Wear a bright colored swim cap and continuously sight for potential hazards or obstacles in the water. I often practice in a river and occasionally there are large tree branches or debris that has floated down stream into the area I swim. I try to sight in the water every 4th or 5th stroke to make sure I am not going to bump into something and to ensure I am staying on line with my target. This is excellent practice as in a race you also always need to be aware of other swimmers and ensure you are taking the shortest line to the finish in the water.
  3. Be aware of weather conditions - Weather can be a factor when training in open water. I train in open water 2-3 times a week and it is amazing how weather affects the conditions in the water. Again this is excellent practice. You definitely have to swim differently if there is a lot of chop to the water versus a completely calm day.Training in all kinds of weather eliminates stress on race day. You will know how to swim in all conditions!
  4. Practice with the equipment you use in a race - If you plan on using a wetsuit in your race then wear one in training. If you know you definitely can't use a wetsuit in your upcoming event then train without one in practice. A few years ago I hardly ever wore my wetsuit and was extremely uncomfortable wearing one. I finally started training with a wetsuit and now I am very comfortable. Practice..Practice..Practice...You will never be comfortable and confident with equipment if you only use it in a race.

  5. Use a swim buoy - I mentioned using a swim buoy in an earlier post and I have received a lot of questions and inquiries about how to use a swim buoy during training. I created a video to explain the use of a swim buoy during training in open water. Check out the video below. 


Swimming in open water can be a very rewarding experience and is a lot more enjoyable than swimming in a pool. If you enjoy running you wouldn't do all of your running on a track, right? Not to mention, you are training to compete in triathlons and most of them are in open water. Doing all of your training in a pool is not going to eliminate any of your open water anxiety. Get into the open water and start swimming for REAL. You will be glad you did.

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Whatever Happened to the Speedo?

Posted by David Hardy
David Hardy
VTR Expert
User is currently offline
on Monday, May 14, 2012
in Triathlons

In the last 10 years there has been a tremendous increase in the popularity of the sport of triathlon. Increased attention on the sport has brought about better equipment and products for triathletes.  There's also been a change in the staple clothing item worn at a race. During my early years in triathlon when you stood at the start line of a swim and looked around you, almost everyone was wearing a speedo.  The "Speedo" was the thing to wear. If you watched the yearly broadcast of the Ironman triathlon in Hawaii all of the pros were wearing speedos. Amateurs too raced in their speedos for the swim, bike and run. I wore a speedo for my first 25 triathlons. They even had speedos with a bike pad. Fortunately speedos have disappeared from my wardrobe and the wardrobe of virtually every other triathlete. Here are some reasons why this switch has been a positive change for the sport.

dave cycling in speedo

1) Let's be honest. Regardless of how well-chiseled your triathlete body is...Bottom one wants to see you in a speedo. There is nothing worse than the guy setting up transition and walking around prior to the start of a race with nothing on but an old faded speedo. No one wants to see that much skin. Plus it's a bit awkward having a prerace conversation with a stranger standing there in his speedo.

2) If you have worn a speedo for any length of time you have experienced chafing. Due to the repetitive motion of cycling and running the inner thighs are very prone to chafing. Most athletes figure out what clothing works best for them and eliminate this issue, but the speedo did not give you many options to avoid the "chafe". You could try putting vaseline on your legs or some other kind of body glide but that usually wore off quick. Basically if you are prone to chafing the speedo is the worst thing to wear. There is nothing worse than training hard for months for an event and then have your race ruined by a severe chafe. Thank goodness for tri-shorts. I have never had an issue with chafing since I made the switch. Even if you are one of the lucky ones and don't chafe with a speedo..if you are still wearing one maybe you should consider switching to tri-shorts as well. We will all appreciate it!!  Smile

3) Wearing a speedo with a bike pad made cycling a lot more comfortable. Unfortunately when wet, the pad became soaked and would not dry until you were on the bike. Because of this, every time you ran from the swim to T1 it looked like you had a wet diaper on. Not very attractive. It was even worse if you went for a warm-up swim and then had to walk around with your wet diaper look prior to the race. Not cool.

old race photo in speedo

4) Last but not least, the speedo looks good on the top 1% or less of the people on this planet. Not only do you need the right body but you also have to ensure you have been tanning, shaved properly, etc. Unfortunately, back in the day when the speedo was the "uniform" for a triathlon, 95% of triathletes chose to wear one. It really wasn't good.

The sport of triathlon has changed quite a bit since I completed my first event in 1990. We have better bikes, aero equipment, training plans, etc. One could argue one of the best changes to the sport was the introduction of tri-shorts. Not only did this almost completely eliminate the issue of chafing but it also improved triathlon fashion considerably. If you are one of the last triathlete holdouts still wearing a speedo please consider upgrading to the tri-short . You won't be disappointed...and neither will we.

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