Open water mass starts - learn how to overcome the fear and find the solution!

Open water mass start practice... are you tuned in and race ready? Do you know where to position yourself for your best performance?

Does a feeling of panic start to overcome you when you think about open water mass starts? ​This isn't uncommon, and can be overcome mentally and physically with specific race interventions. We have lots of calming strategies from 12 years of open water swim coaching all levels of swimmers and triathletes.

Follow these tips to help take away this fear…

Watch the above video first, it's not how it will be if you follow the tips below:

"Triathlon swim starts can be pretty brutal! I've always had the motto (as a British Triathlon coach and age group triathlete) that you need to train the way you race!" Wes.

However, get it wrong and it can feel more like this!

Enjoy the video, its a classic!

Practising open water swim technique drills which make you feel slightly disorientated in the pool are very useful for distraction control and maintaining your rhythm and tempo when swimming in a race.

One example we get our open water swim clients do is somersaults and barrel-rolls while you're swimming front crawl to teach them how to maintain focus.

Position yourself in the pack so you breathe towards the group. For example if you normally breathe in a race to your right, start on the far left hand side. This way you’ll be out of the melee of the main group, and in your own space more.

Instead of starting in a vertical body position like everyone else, and akin to being in a tin of sardines, start horizontally for an easier and more relaxed start. In a vertical start position when you get moving and try to bring your body up to the surface, you'll get people unwittingly pressing down on your legs with their arms, you might be doing the same to swimmers in front of you, and it will be very hard to get going.

You'll have to swim doing head up or polo swim drill until this all pans and peters out. Its not the most effective method to start an open water event or race.

The Solution:

Lay / float horizontally in the water prior to the start so you can get the best send off when the gun goes. This also gives you more space around you than a deep water ‘legs down’ start position, limiting people swimming on top of your legs.

You can practise these in the pool in the deep end with a couple of friends. I would recommend you try both methods being the vertical and horizontal starts so you can feel the differences in terms of getting going.

Watch this excellent video by the Global Triathlon Network on how to do just this:

Overcome your fears of open water swimming? Book up a series of open water swimming lessons with Nick de Meyer

Learn about sighting, navigation, drafting techniques, mass starts, breathing for open water, positioning in races, and turning around buoys with our "Crazy Ivans" techniques.

Nick has 12 years experience in open water swim coaching of triathletes and open water swimmers of all levels.

If you're interested in learning more click below:

When is your next triathlon or swimming race? We'd love to help you achieve your personal best.

The next open water tip will be on how to navigate so you swim in a straight line...

For more info on training sessions, tips etc, get in touch

Nick de Meyer is a level 3 British Triathlon Coach and STA Level 2 swim teacher and a Master Endurance Coach with Training Bible Coaching UK. He recently helped to plan the new STA Open water coaching course with a number of other coaches.

He is an Open Water swimming coach and teaches at Shepperton open water swimming lake. He has completed 2 Ironman Triathlons, and the Dart 10km swim to name a couple and has been training competing and coaching triathlons for 20 years.

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