Train the Way You Want to Race
If you want to perform well on race day, you need to train the way you want to race. So, what does that mean?
First, prepare. Have a swim bag with all your supplies: 2 pair of goggles, towels, swimsuit(s), body glide for the wetsuit, 2 swim caps, watch, wetsuit, personal supplies, transition items, change of clothes, etc. Next, train.
Let’s talk about open water racing first. In open water, there are no sides to stop at, there are no ‘I’s on the bottom of the lake, there are no lane lines. The best way to practice for an open water swim when the weather is not conducive to swimming in open water is with a continual swim in a pool that will challenge you to keep your pace. Even if you are working drills, when you swim in the community pool, you will not know if you are holding your pace until you finish your set and look at your time not to mention you are allowing yourself to stop every 25 yards and turn around. In our current based pool at Winning Swimming, we can set the speed and have it remain consistent throughout your swim.
When the weather permits, recruit a swim buddy and get to the open water to practice, practice, practice. Give yourself plenty of time before race day to get used to not being able to see the bottom, to get used to seeing things on the bottom of the lake, to get used to the much colder temperature that open water will hold, and to get used to wearing a wetsuit if you have decided to go that route. Pick a point across the lake to swim to. Then swim and practice sighting, swimming straight, and setting a pace.
Now, let’s talk about pool racing. When you are a competitive pool racer, you want to make sure your strokes, turns, and finishes are race legal. Your coach can help you with this. Your part is to show up, listen to your coach, and do the best you can do that day. Keep pushing yourself to get better and make sure you treat every practice as a race. For example, when you finish your set, make sure your finish is all the way to the wall and race legal. Don’t be one of those swimmers who stops at the bottom of the ‘I’ just because you can.
Finally, if you dog it in practice, you will dog it in the race because that is what your body and mind are used to. I realize you may not always want to swim but, what if you show up to your ‘A’ race and you’re not having a great day? You’re still going to want to kick butt in your race and you will be thankful you taught your body how to fight through that feeling in practice instead of trying it in the race. So, remember, train the way you want to race so your body and mind will already be accustomed to racing even before the gun goes off.
Originally posted March, 2014