If you're a triathlete or open water swimmer reading this blog you'll know by now that your open water skills are critical to your race performances. It doesn't matter how efficient you are in the pool if you are uncomfortable drafting or zig zag off course in open water.
Let's look at a drill sequence developed by SS Coach Steve Casson which you can follow with a friend in the pool to help you become comfortable swimming close to other swimmers.
Open Water SOAP!
(Open Water Swimming Optimisation, Acclimation and Performance)
During mass open water swim starts and when swimming around marker buoys, a bit of contact with other swimmers is inevitable. Your choices? Drop back or out to the side into clearer water - reducing your chance of catching a good draft and swimming further than you need to - or get stuck in and stay close to other swimmers getting maximum benefit from drafting.
Research shows that you can save up to 38% of your energy expenditure* from drafting behind or to the side of other swimmers. A huge saving that would be insane to ignore. You might have tried swimming close to other swimmers before but found it uncomfortable (or even outright scary) to do so. Open Water SOAP is a drill sequence designed by Steve to help you gain experience swimming close to other swimmers and develop your confidence doing so.
Watch the full SOAP sequence on Steve's website here: swimsmooth.cassonz.com/wp/?p=1912
Steve is based in Northampton in the UK. Find out more about his video analysis and stroke correction services here, and his forthcoming training camps in Mallorca in July and October.
Open Water Skills
In his coaching, Steve recognises the variety of challenges that stand between swimmers achieving their potential in the open water environment. Overcoming anxiety, cold water temperatures, navigating, judging distances, judging pace, wetsuit fitting, coping with choppy water conditions and learning how to gain advantage from other swimmers around you are all skills you need to experience and practise dealing with on a regular basis.
The good news is that using methods such as the SOAP sequence you can develop many of those skills in the pool, just as easily as in the open water.
 CHATARD, J.-C., and B. WILSON. Drafting Distance in
Swimming. Med. Sci. Sports Exerc., Vol. 35, No. 7, pp. 1176–1181, 2003.