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Open Water Swim Class – Intro


It’s racing season here in Madison! That means it’s time to dust off the wetsuits and start to become comfortable in the open water. Whether you are new to triathlon and open water swimming, or a seasoned veteran, there are always skills to be gained and techniques to be honed. We have a great group of athletes coming out to work with Coach Andrew Keily this season at BB Clarke Beach from 6:00am-6:50am on Tuesday and Thursday, starting June 2nd. We still have some openings available, so feel free to drop in to check us out or sign up HERE.

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We meet each Tuesday and Thursday morning at BB Clarke Beach, at 825 Spaight St. Madison, WI. Drop in fee is $20. First class is free!

Swim Coach, Andrew Keily, has swimming in his blood. A life long swimmer, he is also an Ohio State Alum, Distance Freestyle specialist with a list of swimming accolades that could consume this entire blog. His skills as a swimmer have transferred over to open water swimming and triathlon, and he has quickly become a top finisher across many distances. Now Andrew is combining his skills within the sport with his passion to educate and help YOU become a faster, more confident, and smart swimmer. Below, Andrew describes the approach for the first few sessions, and some other OWS thoughts to consider.

Notes from Coach AK

One of the best things you can do for your open water swimming is to become at ease, or comfortable, in the water. In class, I will teach you many different techniques to let go of “the fear” of open water and group swimming. Once you master comfort in the water, we can begin to work on the technical side of your stroke, sighting, and more. One swim tool that will play a large role in your open water comfort is a wetsuit. Please make sure you have a well fitted wetsuit for class.

Wetsuit Basics:

A wetsuit will do many things to improve your swimming. First, it will keep you warm. This is crucial in the early season when water temps are in the high 50’s or low 60’s, and for this reason we require a wetsuit at class. Second, it helps you float. Wetsuits are extremely buoyant. This should give you some peace of mind, knowing that at any moment during a swim you can roll over to your back to float and relax if needed. The floating also benefits your body position in the water, lifting your hips, and reducing drag which increases speed. And finally, the neoprene of a wetsuit is more hydrodynamic than other fabrics, or even your skin! So all in all, it is always faster to wear a wetsuit when a race allows. During the first few classes we will do a quick tutorial on “How To Put On A Wetsuit,” to make sure you have a good fit, don’t damage the suit, and have unrestricted shoulder motion.  

OWS Basics: What We Will Cover In The Water, Phase 1

Breathing Technique– Just like in biking and running, we need to breathe! Swimming presents the challenge of timing your breathing to coincide with your stroke. Even seasoned swimmers can fall victim to allowing their breathing to dictate their stroke rhythm, rather than working their breath into the proper stroke technique. We will spend a fair amount of time on this, and it will be an ongoing skill to master. 

Full Body Swimming, Driving from the Hips– That’s right, swimming with your hips! The arms create the most propulsion in a freestyle stroke, but you can’t just fight the water. Swimming is a technical skill and shoulder strength will only take you so far. Learning to “drive the hips” will make swimming feel easier and you’ll go faster. Win, win. Say goodbye to shoulder fatigue!

Sighting, Swimming a Straight Line– Why do you swim x:xx per 100yd in the pool but x:xx+30sec per 100yd in open water? Well, one of the first things to assure is that you are swimming straight! A few zig zags between buoys in a 1.2 mile swim can quickly add up to an extra 300 yards or more. Any extra distance is going to cost you time. 300 yards of extra time is significant. Swimming straight will not only ensure you are swimming the minimum distance, but also help to balance your body rotation in order to accomplish this. I will teach you the most effective way to sight, how to reduce your “drift” by balancing your stroke, and other tips and tricks to master this skill. 

This is plenty to focus on for now. I look forward to working with you this season to help you have your fastest, most comfortable, and most confident OWS of your life. 

Coach AK

Andrew and I have worked hard to bring you more than just a group of people who meet to swim around buoys without purpose or direction. Expect each class to have a focus, expect some 1-1 instruction, expect some GoPro video analysis as needed, and expect to have fun and become a better athlete. We both look forward to seeing you June 2 at 6am, BB Clarke Beach. For any questions or comments please contact us at:


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