5 Swim Drills for Triathletes

Swimming in a pool to prepare for open water can be tough if you don't know the right drills. Here are 5 great swimming drills and why each one will help prepare you to swim in open water. Incorporate these into your regular swim workouts and you'll be prepared for the swim portion of any event.

All swim drills use crawl stroke and are designed for a 25 yard pool. Adjust the timing and distance for your environment. You can use them to enhance your regular workout, or design a whole workout around them. Adjust all times and repeats to your skill and ability level.

Swim Drill #1: Breathing Pattern Taper

(1,000 yards total)

Why it helps:
This drill helps develop bilateral breathing, which is essential for swimming in open water. It also gives you variation in the frequency of breathing which helps your body adjust to changing conditions.

4 x 250 alternating breathing pattern as follows:

-25 yards breathing every 6th stroke,

-50 yards breathing every 5th stroke (bilateral breathing)

-75 yards breathing every 4th stroke

-100 yards breathing every 3rd stroke (bilateral breathing)

Swim Drill #2: Shore Sighting

(400 yards total)

Why it helps:
When swimming in open water you'll need to be able to sight on land frequently without interrupting your stroke. Establishing a good rhythm in the pool will help you make an easier transition to open water.

8 x 50 yards sighting every 3rd or 4th stroke (rest :15 between 50s)

Swim Drill #3: Head Up, Head Down

(500 yards total)

Why it helps:
Swimmers often have a hard time adjusting to holding their head up to look around. It's generally not practiced by pool swimmers and some can find it awkward. In open water, being able to hold your head up and continue swimming is a must. Practice this drill until you are as comfortable with your face held out of the water as you are with your face in the water.

5 x 100 crawl alternating 4 strokes with head out of water and 4 strokes with head in water

-Resting :30 between 100s

-Do not take a breath while head is in water


Swim Drill #4: Disaster Recovery

(200 yards total)

Why it helps:
Stuff can happen during any open water swim. Preparing for the worst will make it easier to handle an emergency if it does occur. Getting pushed or bumped can dislodge your goggles and your swim cap. This drill will help you recover if that occurs in an event.

4 x 50 yards cap and goggles recovery drill

-Swim the first length with goggles around your neck and cap off tucked in your swimsuit

-Swim the return length on your back while kicking and replace both cap and goggles by the time you get to the wall

-Repeat this pattern for each 50 yards

Swim Drill #5: Wind Sprints

(600 yards total)

Why it helps:
At the start of each race you'll either want to keep your head up to move around the crowds, or put your head down and sprint if you have clear water in front of you. Wind sprints are one of the simplest drills, yet also one of the most effective. This drill prepares you for sprinting.

3 sets of 8 x 25 yards wind sprints

-Take a breath then swim each length without breathing

-Rest :15 between each 25

-Between sets either rest 1:00 or swim an easy 100 yards


With these 5 swim drills you can continue your normal workouts and add some focused open water training to the mix.


Please consult your doctor before beginning any type of training program.