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Open Water Training: The Picket Fence

February 3, 2013
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Image 1: Buoy placement and terminology for the “Picket Fence”. The “short loop” is done by swimming around buoys #1 and #2, while the “Long Loop” is done swimming laps from buoys #1 to #3.

The majority of aspiring open water swimmers spend a preponderance of their time practising in the pool, and rightfully looking for ways to tweak their pool training regimen to build skills for open water (think sighting, swimming without walls). But when we get outside into the open water it sometimes seems that we forget all of the clever techniques for training that we have developed in the pool. We just swim for distance or swim for time. But there is so much more that can be done to maximize our fitness, and accelerate the aquisition of open-water specific skills.

Running a successful open water workout for a wide variety of athletes can be tricky business, but there are some basic ways that we can organize our workouts to not only allow a flexible use of the open water, but to do so in a manner that accommodates a wide range of athletes. One of these is the “Picket Fence”.

Equipment/Setup

  1. 2-3 buoys (or something that can be used for the purpose)
  2. A stretch of open water at least 50 yards long
  3. Anchor buoys in a Straight Line (like a picket fence – see figure 1), equidistant along the stretch of water

Uses of the Picket Fence
With this framework, the line of buoys forms a general course with two basic distances for use as laps. We refer to them as the “short loop” and the “long loop”. A third option, whereby swimmers swim laps between the 2nd and 3rd buoys can also be used, we refer to that as the “far loop”. These loops can be used simply to spice things up (see the warmup portion of the example workout below), and they can also be used to accommodate a variety of ability levels and comfort levels (see main set in sample workout below). Many of the athletes who are preparing for open water races are adults new to swimming and have a great deal of fear of open (and deep) water. Acclimatization is also something that we need to focus on with some of our and less experienced age groupers.
For swim coaches that have developed a whole library of productive pool workouts, a little bit of structure in the open water can allow us to create in a manner that plays to our strengths, while still reaping the rewards of wall-free swimming.  Using the picket fence, we can set up a workout that is interesting, is very amenable to speed-play, and can help us to more accurately quantify the distance travelled in a workout.
Workout: A sample workout using the “picket fence” that can customize to various speeds and comfort levels.  This workout was done on a course approximately 250 meters in length, with about 75 meters between buoy 1 and 2.  Total time is 1-1.5 hours.

WARMUP (or 25:00 whichever comes first)
2 X SHORT LOOP
3-4 X SHORT LOOP, DOING:
1 – SIGHT EVERY 8th BREATH
2 – SIGHT EVERY 6th BREATH
3 – SIGHT EVERY 4th BREATH
4 – BUILD-UP

ALL TOGETHER
6 X SHORT LOOP – 3-ACROSS
ON GROUP REST + :10 – Get Used to Swimming Next to Someone

MAIN SET / CONDITIONING
2-3 X [ “FRONT-DOOR / BACK-DOOR”
1 LAP SHORT LOOP (FAST)
1 LAP LONG LOOP (SLOW) *Option do 1-2 Short Loop if needed
1 LAP SHORT LOOP (FAST)
REST :30-:60

 

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From → Coaching, Swimming

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