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This is part 3 in a series of blog posts where we ask important questions to successful coaches in the Vasa community.  Here are their answers to an important question:

What are the primary differences in how triathletes & open water swimmers should approach swim training versus competitive pool swimmers? 

How to Swim Faster in open water
Athletes Training for an Open Water Swim

Coach Dan Daly:

Triathletes and open water swimmers need to get a lot of volume in, while often managing family and work. Many are also either adult learned swimmers, or former competitive age group swimmers, both of which need to respect the demands of high volume training on aging bodies. That’s why it’s critical their training is focused on time-efficiency and technique to maximize their improvement and minimize setbacks. Dryland strength training with weights and Vasa Trainers can be a lower volume, high intensity method to gain swim-specific strength they can apply to the water, and reduce high volume training injuries.” 

Ask the Coach How to Swim Faster
Coach Dan Daly Demonstrates Swim-Specific Strength Exercises on the Vasa Trainer Pro

Coach Eric Neilsen:

Two things come to mind:

  1. Triathletes need to spend a considerable amount of time pulling.  Using only a buoy can best mimic the body position athletes will feel when in a wetsuit.  Adding paddles helps with specific overload, muscular endurance sets targeting the major pulling muscles.  Swimming only with paddles may help those athletes that are trying to find their kick timing while still getting some specific overload.
  2. Having the ability to change, and sustain different stroke rates based on conditions: start, wind, chop, sun, current.  The start can be frantic and a higher stroke rate may be more desirable.  When passing a swimmer or bridging a gap a higher stroke rate will usually be more beneficial before settling back into a sustainable pace.  Bumpy conditions generally increase stroke rate smooth and good current, let it ride a bit.”


Coach Jack Fabian:

Both pool and open water swimmers need training that involves work to build their capacity and power.  In order to achieve this, they cannot train at one pace and must learn to train at different speeds.  Triathletes do not need to swim as much volume in the pool as competitive pool swimmers.  Pool swimmers need to develop efficient turns and underwater kicking where those skills are not important for triathlon open water swimming.”

Olympic Open Water Swimmer, Alex Meyer, used the Vasa Trainer SwimErg to Swim Stronger, Better, Faster.

Coach Ben Gathercole:

Pool swimmers are always working on their distance per stroke, for triathletes that is akin to pushing too big a gear on a bike or over-striding while running. Yes, it can be done, but only for short durations and with many, many years of training under their belts. I think triathletes need to develop a higher turnover, a quicker cadence if you will, to enable efficient swim splits and the ability to ride and run after.”


Want to Ask A Coach How to Swim Faster? Just submit your question(s) to Vasa Customer Service.

About the Coaches

Dan, Eric, and Jack and Ben are among the World’s most respected coaches & athletes from the Vasa community.  They also are contributors to our ebook, Four Keys to Fearless Open Water Swimming.  It’s excellent, it’s useful, and it’s FREE!    Click here to get your free copy


Ask the Coach Dan Daly How to Swim FasterDaly Daly, CSCS
Dryland Strength & Conditioning Coach



Ask Coach Eric Neilson How to Swim FasterEric Neilsen
Head coach, FAST Masters
Masters Swimming & Multisport Coach



Ask Coach Jack Fabien How to Swim Faster

Jack Fabian, PhD
TOWER 26 Swim Coach



Ben Gathercole
Australian High-Performance Triathlon Coach