The open-water swimmer
Even though water is definitely your element, do you find the lanes of a swimming pool a bit too claustrophobic? Do you like to lose yourself in the relentless rhythm of your arm strokes after having carefully studied the “route” to take? Well that means you are an open-water swimmer.
This kind of “ultra-endurance swimmer” is even tougher and stronger, if that is possible, than a long-distance swimmer in the pool. The kind of characteristics you need are not just physical but also, and I might say ABOVE ALL, tactical and cognitive.
Tactical because you need to swim on the heels of your fellow competitors and know all about their strengths and weaknesses. Cognitive because the details of the “environments” in which you will be swimming, i.e. the weather conditions and currents, can make all the difference.
Another important aspect are the trajectories you take, because the distances you swim are never that precise due to currents, fellow competitors and all kinds of unforeseen circumstances….. even the organisers’ information can be off the mark.
That is why, as well as getting used to swimming without the usual reference marks provided by the edges of the pool and the blue line along the bottom, you need to raise your head and shoulders slightly when you are swimming, looking ahead for markers like buoys or buildings along the shoreline or lakeside.
Ultra-long distance swimmers do not need to monitor their heartrate to set the intensity of their training sessions, because they will always be working more or less at full intensity.
Training will inevitably be in the pool, although they can also “attempt” a few outdoor swims wearing a wetsuit even during the colder months. Just like all other athletes, it is a good idea to stretch and warm-up on dry land, using elastic bands and performing suitable exercises, to prevent injuries. And, to make pool sessions less boring, my advice is to use accessories like Hand paddles, a Pullkick (or Pullkick Pro) and Swim Keel, which can help you increase the intensity of your training.
All you need to do now is plan your race schedule and enjoy the freedom of swimming out in the seas – or lakes – you have chosen!