Small adjustments to your stroke make a huge difference to your performance in ocean swimming. Aim for a wider arm stroke which uses the larger muscles in your upper back for added stability.
Kicking correctly also helps to maintain a good body position in choppy water. Try to get a swim coach or experienced ocean swimmer to observe your stroke and suggest how to adjust it.
Training should include intervals, low intensity and steady-state. Intervals including short bursts of high energy effort, followed by short recovery periods are great for building up fitness. Try repetitions of 2 laps of your fastest freestyle, followed by 1 or 2 fairly slow laps to get your breathing under control.
In the sea, measure the lap distance at 50 strokes and gradually increase the interval intensity or duration and take shorter rest periods. Varying the pace lets you focus on technique during slow pace and fitness during fast pace.
Using flippers builds up endurance and lets you focus on your upper body technique - but use them sparingly. As you improve, practise kicking without flippers with your legs taut and your feet flexible. This uses the strong gluteal muscles to work your feet like natural flippers.
Pool or ocean
You can do most of your training in a pool, but aim for at least one day a week in the ocean. This is the only way to experience the conditions you’ll face during a race.
Eating before a race
On the day before, eat two meals high in lowGlycaemic Index carbs to give you a good store of glucose. Many athletes eat pasta, brown rice, oats or rye bread and legumes like lentils, chickpeas and other dried beans – plus vegetables.
On race day, have breakfast and drink plenty of water at least 2 hours before the race. Breakfast should be a mix of high and low GI foods for extra energy. For example, multi-grain toast with honey or jam, a fruit smoothie or a specially balanced sports cereal bar.
For safety, wait until you can swim the race distance without stopping before you enter. If possible, train 3 – 5 times a week for about 8 – 12 weeks to develop sufficient stamina and really enjoy the challenge.
Ocean swimming gives you a wonderful sense of freedom and when you’ve trained to your peak of fitness you’ll feel ready to win a hundred races!
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