Pace Yourself in Open-Water

The start of any open-water or triathlon swim is a frantic affair with a blaze of swimmers churning up the water as they scramble for the first turn buoy. Far too often, swimmers tend to “over-cook” it by going out at a pace they cannot maintain throughout the race. The result is a painful, tiresome, and ultimately slow finish. Pacing correctly over any open-water distance swim is a key factor to your overall success. Start too fast and you are spent. Start to slow and you get stuck behind everyone.

To help you find the ideal pace, FINIS has a very clever tool called the Tempo Trainer. This device is essentially a metronome that beeps to designate when your arm should pull through the water. You can set it to the speed you want to swim at, and it will keep your stroke rhythm. It’s important to remember that out in the open-water you do not have access to precise distances (25yard or 50m pool lengths) or a pace clock/watch to work off. So the Tempo Trainer takes care of the pacing for you. Just “obey the beep” during your open-water training sessions or events in order to create a more consistent swim.

Fartlek or “Speed Play” is also an important component of swim training and correct pacing for the open-water. Simply put, Fartlek is varying the speed during an interval or swim. For example, do repetitions of 400m each and vary the speed throughout the 400; swim hard for 75m then slow down for 50m then hard again for 25m and slow for 100m and so on. Learning to turn UP the pace (for the start and when you need to pass some slower swimmers) as well as learning to turn DOWN the pace (mid-way through a 3.8km swim) is an important facet of any open-water or triathlon swim training.

Two simple solutions as explained above and you’re going to be better prepared next time you’re on the start line and ready to rock.

- Glen Gore (guest blogger)


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