Top workouts for Open Water Swimming

August 20, 2021

Swimming in open water is one of those sports that amateurs sometimes come to, even if they have not been engaged with a coach. Everyone has their own reasons, but the fact is that every year the popularity of open water swimming (both by itself and as one of the disciplines of triathlon) is growing.

If you have decided to give your heart to this sport, but do not know where to start and if you are puzzled by the questions of which of the open water swim workouts to choose, but you are amazed by the variety of open water swimming training sessions — we will try to help you and orient you.

How to train for an open water swim?

Get prepared.

What do you need to know about the reservoir?

The place where you are going to hold your training swim should be clean and far from the movement of ships.

The most successful training option is the lake where you grew up and where you spent a lot of time. You can draw a map of the bottom with your eyes closed and you know what time fishermen usually go to check fishing nets.

An important factor is currents and cold springs. Currents are less common in closed small reservoirs, however, this is a common phenomenon for large lakes, bays, and seas. It is simply necessary and priceless to know this.

Currents can be constant and variable. It may happen that you will swim confidently in one direction, but back to the shore, when you have already spent your strength, you will have to swim against the current.

How to practice open water swimming

Open water training sessions can include 3 types of workouts but during training, the most important thing is to correctly calculate your strength — the time you will spend in the water, the distance you are going to overcome, the water temperature.

The types of training are the same as in the pool, but with a few nuances.

Aerobic training. This is a long training. So you need to pick up a wetsuit so as not to get too cold, and imagine the distance to the other shore, the rescue station, the island — in general, understand how much you will swim before you have the opportunity to recover.

Interval training. You need to select a segment, for example, for 50 meters, and set a label. It could be a buoy. Starting from the mark, swim the interval with acceleration, recover and repeat the required number of series.

Technical training. It is best to do them under the guidance of a coach, otherwise, the whole point is lost. Here you need an observer from the outside.

Open water swim practice tips

1. Simplify the technique and focus on 3 phases: the stroke, the passage of the hand over the water, the entry of the hand into the water.

Start the stroke smoothly and gently, grabbing the water. The brush catches up with the elbow. Try to keep it at the level of the average vertical line of the body, as soon as the brush reaches the abdomen, accelerate the movement of the hand. Thus, the stroke will be uniformly accelerated, which will increase the speed due to a soft start and an equally accelerated end.

Carry your hand freely. It will allow you to more rationally distribute efforts in open water with excitement and interference from other participants.

Put your hand behind your head at about an average distance from the hand to the shoulder, which will allow you to stay on the right course and not wobble, winding up extra meters of distance.

2. Strength in the hand underwater. Everything that happens underwater is very important since all the forward movement is generated here. To maximize it, you need the strength of your arms, shoulders, back, and abs. It develops best when you swim with your hand paddles. Train with the hand paddles — you can do 50% of the time. Choose them correctly — they should be slightly larger than your hand and be straight, without bulges and concavities, the simplest model is the best.

3. Swim often and effectively — love swimming! If you can follow the open water swim training schedule — swim 3 times a week, this is fine and ideal. Do not waste time on long warm-ups and hitches and intricate exercises on the technique. Jump into the water and row! Use your time in the water effectively. Next open water swim sessions will help you to achieve the goals.

This open water swimming program is in the 3rd place of our TOP3 open water programs.

Program No3

  • Strength training:

Warm-up: 10 x 25m — one lap fast, one lap calm.

Main part: 40 x 50 with hand paddle and a pull buoy, pause for 10 seconds.

  • Endurance training:

16 x 25 — every 4th lap fast, 12 x 25-every 3rd lap fast, 8 x 25-every 2nd lap fast, 4 x 25-swim fast all the laps. Pause for 20 seconds between exercises.

  • Speed training :

8 x 400 –swim each 2nd lap hand paddle and a pull buoy.

Program No 2


The purpose of the training: effective, relaxed, direct endurance swimming

Warm up for 10-20 minutes, include swimming exercises, set an effective breathing rhythm

Perform a straight swimming exercise. Concentrate on the sensations inside and imagine that you see a straight line like the bottom of a pool.

During a long aerobic swim, the main thing is to work out your ability to swim straight.


The purpose of the training: train strength, speed, and the ability to raise your head high when necessary.

Preheat for 10-20 minutes. Complete 3 to 10 rounds. Relax between sets.

This training is best performed at shorter distances or during a long swim.


The purpose of training: to increase the speed and frequency of strokes

Warm up, control your technique, set an effective breathing rhythm

Speed: from 3 to 10 laps of 10 rowing sprints, 10 rowing relaxed swims

After 1-2 laps, swim at a racing pace at the intervals or distance of your race.

Program No1

This program can be considered as a good basis for an extreme swimming workout or ocean swim training plan for 5 weeks.

Warm up, swimming 250m before each class.

Pay attention to technique and breathing skills to improve efficiency.

Swim Backstroke for 200m and do stretching after the training.

Week 1

Swim 500m, using all your power to record your speed data. Then choose an easy pace and do 5 laps of 100 m 30 seconds rest between them.

Week 2

The week of Aerobic swimming, when you should swim 5 x 500m.

Week 3

Swim 5 x 200 m, trying to maintain an average pace. Pause for 40 seconds after each swim. Use a buoy while swimming 8 times x 50m. Then rest for half a minute before the fast style and swim 8 x 50 freestyle.

Week 4

Swim 10 x 100m to maintain an average pace. Take a 30 sec rest between 8 x 50m. Every 25m should be fast and the other 25m slow. 30sec rest between 8 x 50 freestyle. Then rest for half a minute before the fast one 2 x 200m trying to hold an average 500m pace.

Week 5

Try to hold an average 500m pace swimming 12 x 50m . Take 30 sec for rest before 8 x 50 with a pull buoy.

40sec rest before fast one 2 x 200m.

Then swim 5 x 100m.

Breathing skills for open water swimming

There are no special rules for breathing when swimming in open water – you need to breathe the same way as in the pool, according to the type of training and your own developed skill. For example, in the case of aerobic training, this can be a breathing mode of 1-5 or 1-3 – this means that the swimmer takes one breath for every five or three strokes, respectively. During anaerobic, interval training, the regime will change.

The only specific feature of breathing in open water is related to how its rhythm can be adjusted to the need to navigate in motion.

If you are swimming along the shore, then you need to breathe on the side where the shore is. Looking out of the water, you will be guided to the shore and swim without deviating from the course. Similarly, with another landmark-a buoy, a partner.

Develop this skill by practicing irregular breathing while swimming in training: take three breaths on the right side, then five on the left, then eight on the right, then four on the left, for example. Or breathe with each stroke, and then hold your breath for several subsequent strokes.

We hope that this article answers the main questions on how to train for an ocean or open water swim. Our TOP3 open water workouts can be used as triathlon open water swim training as well. Good luck in mastering the open water!

Latest News

Black Friday is here. Best time for the best offers!

November 18, 2022

Don't miss your chance to benefit from the most profitable offers of the year.

Get your SONR Set now
Pre-order now for an exclusive early bird price
Basic set includes receiver and radio transmitter.