10 Open Water Swimming Tips for Triathlon!

Part 1 of a 2 Part series:

Open Water Race Day Secrets That The Pros Won’t Tell You

Sitting down to think about some great race day tips for new triathletes seems easy, but thinking about pre-race rituals and strategies I use made me realize the many things on race day that have become automatic. Below I have outlined some race day secrets, in the hope that it makes your transition to the open water much easier!

1. Get Rid Of Your Fear And Just Do It

What nobody knows about me is I am afraid of open water because I can’t see the bottom. That fear doesn’t happen when racing or swimming in the ocean with other people. I’ve been stung by jellyfish, nipped at by crustaceans(SP?), and had a school of fish swim by. What is my advice to  triathletes afraid of the water? Just don’t be afraid when the time comes to race. Practicing in the open water helps, but triathletes have a fear of the unknown which can be mentally draining. If you aren’t sure what your fear is in swimming, then why have fear at all? I’m terrified sometimes by swimming in the ocean by myself so I try to avoid that when possible, but when it comes time to racing my mind goes blank and I focus on racing and nothing else. When you race, there are kayaks, lifeguards, and boats that will help you, but if the unknown strikes fear in you, focus on something positive and/or something funny to make light of your situation. Changing your thought patterns externally and internally could create the performance you were looking for.

2. Start Away From The Group

Being color blind makes it very difficult for me to sight in the water, but I drift right. When racing, I will start all the way on the left and in the front because drifting right will let me head straight towards a buoy while passing everyone. Figure out how you drift and start on the opposite side. If you’re a weak swimmer, start in the back. It will be easier for you to draft and have a better idea which way the current is pushing you.

3. Have 2 Pairs Of Goggles – 1 Black & 1 Clear

Early morning races mean that you might have the sun in your face when starting or finishing your swim. Having a dark colored type of goggle will give you a chance to protect your eyes and allow you to see. However, with a clear goggle, you can wear them on a cloudy day and still see.  Along with having two pairs of goggles, they are the one thing you don’t want to find out race day morning they were stepped or have the strap broken.  Along with goggles I want to add my next point 


4. No Need For Full Face Goggles

You see alot of triathletes use the Navy Seal type full face goggle which almost looks like a scuba mask. The argument for them is that you can see more around you, but why would you want to? If you’re only concentrating on the people around you, your stroke starts to suffer and your hips will drop.

My second reason; since the mask is connected throughout, if it starts to leak the whole goggle leaks and can affect both eyes where as having a pair that separates the eyes will only affect one eye it’s alot easier to clear the water out and go. If you can’t stop then you still have 1 eye to see out of.

5.  Wear a full sleeve wetsuit when possible

There is always a huge debate that wearing a sleeveless wetsuit can be better for swimming since it doesn’t restrict your arms. Newer wetsuit “Technology” has begun to emerge allowing a bigger range of use for your arms. The only thing that might stop this from happening is you not putting your wetsuit on correctly. Get a full wetsuit, which will make you a bit more buoyant and faster in the water, learn how to correctly put it on and take it off. My recommended wetsuit brands are 2XU and Xterra.


Article by: Alan Kipping-Ruane
– TriGuy Multisport Coaching, LLC –

One thought on “10 Open Water Swimming Tips for Triathlon!

  • July 5, 2011 at 9:52 pm

    Thank you for that advice.I’m about to do the swim stage of a triathlon as part of a relay team in very cold water. I feel better already. Picking up my tri wet suit tomorrow. roll on the race!!!


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