You're probably terrified of navigating open water, drifting off course or getting kicked in the face by another competitor. And those things might very well happen if you simply throw fitness at the event. But a successful swim is mostly about technique, says Fisher, a former state-level junior swimmer.
Once you know how to swim, you’ll gain skill and confidence so you’re better able to manage trouble. About two months before race day, start doing at least two swims a week, building up to at least 1,000 metres each. To prepare for the open-water freakout many first-timers experience, log a few practice swims in the ocean or a lake. Learn to “sight”, looking up every 50-100 metres to make sure you’re seeing the buoys that mark the course. As you swim, minimise drag with proper body position and stroke mechanics. Here’s how.
“Nailing the swim isn’t about mileage or getting wet seven days a week. Swimming less while emphasising technique will mean you’re
training efficiently” – Ryan Fisher, 26
1\ GLIDE WITH YOUR HEAD DOWN
Positioning your body correctly begins with your head: keep your noggin in line with your spine. If you raise or lower it, you’ll create excess drag. Rookies feel an urge to peek where they’re headed. Don’t, except when you’re sighting. Use the pool’s lane line to stay straight.
2\ STRAIGHTEN OUT
Avoid lateral movement by keeping your head, shoulders, hips and feet in a straight line. As you swim, imagine being stretched from both your head and your feet.
3\ KEEP YOUR FEET CLOSE TOGETHER
Generate a compact kick by using power from your hips, keeping your legs close together.
As your lead hand enters the water, your arm should be nearly straight. According to a recent study on fluid dynamics, this is more efficient than “sculling,” in which the arm is bent and traces an S curve while pushing water behind you.
5\ TIME IT RIGHT
As one arm reaches full extension in front of you, wait to pull with that arm until the other arm is just about to spear into the water. If you begin the pull before the other arm is ready to strike, your body will rotate prematurely, which kills your glide and slows forward propulsion.
6\ BECOME A FALLING LEAF
As you stroke through the water, your body should open as you pull your arm overhead, and then close when you stroke through. See your body as a falling leaf or a snow-boarder going up and down the sides of a half pipe.
DODGE THE STARTING-GUN MELEE If you’re not a strong swimmer, your coach will advise you to hang back at the start to escape the scrum of flailing arms and legs. Heed that advice. You’ll lose only 20-30 seconds from your time. If your goggles get knocked off, simply tread water as you put them back on properly to prevent fogging and to ensure that you can see where you’re going.