Hopper's 12 Pearls of Open Water Wisdom


_HPP7784 I've been fortunate to have received pearls of wisdom on stroke, open water techniques, and safety from a wide array of people, from former Olympic coaches to total strangers at some little race across a murky pond. I've even come up with a few of my own. I've spent some time over the past few days thinking about the best and most useful of these little pearls. Here they are:

1) Don't go. If you're having reservations about the weather, currents, boat traffic, or your own physical condition, stay on shore. It can be the bravest decision a swimmer makes.

2) Keep your head down. It's almost a cliche' now, but I still have to remind myself to do this. It's actually more about finding a comfortable, neutral head position, but for most of us, this means a few degrees down.

3) Be curious about your stroke. Improving your swimming is so much about experimentation, so you have to be curious. What if I pause here? What if I slowed my kick down?

4) Use video. There's nothing like seeing yourself making some mistake to actually believe it and do something about it.

5) Use core rotation as your power source. Once you tie your rotation into your pull, everything changes for the better.

6) Use a swim safety float. It's important to be seen out in the open water. These safety devices might also provide you with the security to explore new places to swim. Bring a buddy, too.

7) Ride the rails. This is a mental trick where you pretend you are swimming on railroad tracks. Each arm has a rail. This keeps you entering at 11:00 and 1:00, and can help prevent the old school "S" pull.

8) Press your chest down. This, along with Head Down, is all about finding balance, head to toe.

9) Try dropping the wetsuit. This would fall under a larger heading of Mix it Up. Acclimatizing to cold water can be a very rewarding journey.

10) Use your alligator eyes. It's important to do your sighting and navigating with as little effort as possible. By only exposing your eyes between strokes, you can take a glance and save energy for the long haul.

11) Be a flexible breather. Bi-lateral breathing is great, but sometimes it's best to breathe on just one side due to chop, sun, or to eye a competitor. Improve your weak side, and become a better swimmer.

12) Do some backstroke. All this crawl stroke can shape your body into a capital C. Doing backstroke builds muscle on your opposite sides, and can keep you straight.

- Hopper