This morning was "fun Friday" with the Masters group I have started swimming with and coach Max had a fun open water workout for us. These drills are a good way to prepare for the upcoming open water and triathlon season and are also a good way to add variety to your swim workouts.
Head's Up Free
Swimming with your head up is not generally recommended (unless you are playing water polo). However, in open water you have to lift your head to sight. Doing sets of "head's up" free will help to build your neck and lower back muscles. This is a tough workout and will teach you really quickly how important horizontal body positioning is. A good place to start out would be doing sets of 25 or 50. If you want a real challenge, try swimming a longer distance (200 to 300 yards).
Open water can be rough. You never know when you might get hit with a wave, boat wake, or another swimmer when you try to take a breath. Doing hypoxic breathing sets can help you feel comfortable holding your breath. My favorite is doing sets of 100's and limiting my breaths to 3, 5, 7 and 9 on each 25. Underwater 25's are also fun and challenging.
In open water, there is no streamline or resting on the wall. Try doing sets of 100 or 200 yards without pushing off the walls. It's exhausting to try to get back up to speed without the wall, this drill will teach you to keep moving!
Swimming straight is an important aspect of open water. The straighter you swim, the faster you will finish. Try doing some 25's with your eyes closed for the first 10 strokes. When you open your eyes, pay attention to where you are in the lane. If you consistently drift to one side or the other, there is likely some imbalance or cross-over in your stroke. Learning to bilateral breathe (breathe on both sides) will help to balance your stroke.
The starts of open water swims and triathlons are notorious for being crowded (and sometimes rough). Learn to deal with swimming in close proximity to others by sharing your lane with two other swimmers. Swim 25's or 50's side-by-side and take turns in each position (right, left, middle).
Drafting is a good way to save energy and swim faster. Do sets of 200 to 400 yards and start each swimmer one second apart. Try to stay on the toes of the swimmer ahead of you. Make sure that each person gets a chance to take a turn swimming in the front.
No Lane Lines
If your pool will let you, take the lane lines out. This will simulate open water by making the water much less flat. It you want to try something really fun, swim around the perimeter of the pool instead of laps, practicing your buoy turns at each corner.
Put a cone, or other object, on one (or both) sides of the pool. Practice sighting the object 2 or 3 times each lap. If you want to make it more challenging, have someone move the object each lap. Try not to lift your head higher than you need to and pick up your kick each time you sight.