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Top tips for preparing for open water swimming in the pool

Preparing for open water swimming in a warm, comfortable pool is a good stepping stone to the real thing.

Jumping into a large body of water for the first time can be a bit of a shock. So, we have compiled some top tips on what you can do in the pool to prepare.

Preparing for open water swimming: strokes

  1. It is vital to be comfortable with your stroke in open water. Most open water swimmers choose front crawl, so start by making sure yours is in good shape in the pool.
  2. Try get competent in another stroke, such as breaststroke. You may need to recover in open water and breaststroke uses less energy than front crawl.
  3. Open water swimming is no splash and dash. Use pool time to ensure you can confidently swim further than the event you are entering without having to put your feet down.
  4. You could use the Just Swim App distance goals to gradually build up your distance.

Preparing for open water swimming: techniques

So your front crawl is awesome and your endurance is off the chart. But you need to prepare for a few more surprises open water can spring on you.


  • In the open water, there are no lanes. You need to practice looking ahead during your swim to find a marker in the distance to follow.
  • ‘Head up front crawl’ is a great conditioning drill to practice sighting. Chose a fixed object in the distance at the end of the lane. Practice raising your face partially out of the water every 6-8 strokes and spotting the fixed object. Don’t forget to increase your leg kick when lifting your head to maintain a flat streamlined body position.

Treading water

  • There is no wall to hold or kick off from in open water. Use pool time to get used to treading water in the deep end. You could spend a lot of time treading water in open water.


  • Most events will involve turning around a marker buoy, often four or five times a race. If you have space in the pool and a willing practice mate, swim up to and around your friend without touching the walls or bottom of the pool.

Breathing both ways

  • Bilateral breathing promotes stroke balance and can in turn reduce fatigue over long distances.
  • Let your head and spine join the rotation of your shoulders, inhale then turn your face smoothly back in time with your shoulder rotation.

Group swimming

  • Many people swimming together can come as a bit of a shock the first time you swim in an open water event. Practise group swimming with four or five of your friends in one lane of the pool to help get used to the feeling.


Before you decide to take the plunge outdoors, visit our water safety section and make sure you follow our advice for staying safe.