Swimming Events Guide 2024
Coach Cassie,  Top Tips

How does stroke rate differ between pool and open water?

​Our resident Olympian answers your swimming questions

Do you have the same stroke rate when swimming in the pool vs open water? How does your stroke differ?
Sabina Heywood

One of the biggest things that people who are used to swimming in the pool suffer with is changing their stroke in the open water. When you swim outdoors you should have a repertoire of strokes up your sleeve.

For example, if the water is choppy and you are swimming into the waves, you will need to shorten your stroke length and up your stroke rate. This allows you to make headway through the waves and chop. If you keep a long stroke with a low stroke rate, you might find you are getting pushed back!

Also, when sighting you will find that your stroke automatically changes. This is a good thing – don’t try and hold on to a ‘perfect and neat’ stroke when you are sighting. I find when I sight I get a lollop or limp to my stroke. This allows me enough time to pop my head up, take a good look, then carry on swimming.

Finally, the most important part of your stroke for propulsion is the catch (underwater) phase. You want to try your hardest not to change this part of your stroke and cause a reduction in forward momentum.

I hope this helps. Don’t be scared to mix up your stroke when swimming in open water.

“Swimming was my whole life for over 20 years. I poured every ounce of enthusiasm into it. I am so fortunate to have found these new outlets for that enthusiasm.” Cassie Patten

Cassie Patten won bronze in the first ever Olympic 10km marathon swim, in the Beijing 2008 Olympics.

Cassie now coaches and is a frequent commentator at open water events. cassiepatten.co.uk

Email your questions to: editor@outdoorswimmer.com with the subject ‘Coach Cassie’

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