I have spent the last few weeks immersed in studying and practising the concepts of Open-Water Swimming (OWS). It is interesting how being injured leads to a change in perspectives, goals and actions. I have been focused on my core strength, muscular strength, cycling and swimming (every chance I get).
Yesterday, I spent time with coaches from TriZen at the East Coast beach. I learnt from coaches Kua Harn Wei (a deca-Ironman finisher and former age-group world champion) and Kelvin (a professional swim coach). We interviewed Harn Wei (a university professor) a few years ago, and may know that he trains hard still despite being ‘retired’ from active competition. I recommend his one-on-one sessions as he has a wealth of knowledge and he loves to share. So, my lessons learnt from OWS were:
1) You can apply most pool techniques and training to OWS. Only factors that are challenging are: debris, currents, waves, water conditions, visibility, and temperature. Never swim alone!
2) You train for fitness and speed in the pool, and translate it into OWS.
3) Key points to observe in OWS are sighting and stroke rate.
4) I learnt to reduce my sighting patter to: four-strokes-one sight. I veer too much off-course, so need to sight more.
5) Your emerging arm is to be as relaxed as possible; breathe deeply.
6) The acceleration of your pulling arm is critical: extend your forearm as fully backwards.
7) The distance afforded by a complete stroke can be as much as twice the distance earned from a partial stroke.
8) Activate your lats (latissiumus dorsi) muscles as much as possible. Power comes from your ‘wings’ muscles and your core muscles drive the power for the rotation. I tend to over-use my shoulders and upper-arms that are (effectively) weaker than the lats. Combine them all as a synchronised whole.
9) Kicking is personal: it is, mainly, for stabilizing. You can have a 3-beat kick for every two strokes (both arms). You need not use a powerful ‘egg-beater’ approach as you may exhaust yourself prematurely when you swim above-1500 metres.
10) Visualise before you swim, what your outcomes are. ‘See’ yourself swimming well.