CLIVE, Iowa -- For many, the swim portion of the triathlon is the most daunting. Some describe it as a "mosh pit" - a sea of people, all trying to get to the same place in the shortest amount of time.
"You’re dealing with current, waves, sometime breaks and you’re dealing with people around you," says Matt Zepeda, Zoom Performance founder and certified triathlon coach.
So before you take the plunge in open water, you'll want to spend some time honing your skills in the pool.
"A swimming a pool is a great place to do that because you have repetition, consistency of doing the drills that are going to help you in open water," says Zepeda.
Zepeda loves drills. Among them, tying a band or towel around your legs.
"We are going to create extra drag through adding some props in there such as a towel."
Taking away your legs forces the arms to turn over faster, which creates momentum. Using paddles and practicing a variety of strokes improves strength. Both momentum and strength make for a faster open water swim, but the "catch" is even more important.
"A really strong catch in open water is very important – the second most important – but it’s also the hardest skill to truly learn in swimming," says Zepeda.
The key is to keep the elbow forward and use the bigger back muscles to "catch" the water and propel you forward.
Small changes can make a big difference, especially when you're swimming in the open water with a few hundred or few thousand of your closest friends.