Pool Swimming vs Open Water- what are the differences?

Have you thought about getting out of the pool and taking the plunge into open water? There are many differences and for first-timers, the move…

Pool swimming vs Open water

Have you thought about getting out of the pool and taking the plunge into open water? There are many differences and for first-timers, the move from pool to lake can be quite daunting. Here are some of the key differences to be aware of:


The main difference between the pool and open water is the temperature. Indoor pools are kept at a constant 26°c-28°c, this is regularly monitored so that conditions in the water are always the same.
In open water, the temperature can vary depending on time of year, the body of water and weather conditions. In the hottest summer months, a lake can reach up to 23°c which is still significantly cooler than the pool.

The water temperature affects what you wear to swim. Triathletes usually wear a wetsuit for warmth and buoyancy when the temperature is below 20°c. Personally, I prefer the freedom of swimming without a wetsuit in open water, so I wear just a swimsuit to the lake.

Even if you have been swimming in relatively warm water, your body temperature can drop rapidly after getting out of the water. It’s important to get dry and warm as quickly as possible after your swim- a tracksuit is perfect to throw on.


In the pool, the lanes are clearly defined with ropes and lane lines. In open water, it’s more tricky to swim straight and stay on course as there is no black line to follow.
Sighting is a key skill for open water swimmers to master. Before setting off, take a look at the swim course and identify the buoys or landmarks that you will use to stay on course. To sight, you don’t need to lift your entire head out of the water – try to lift your eyes out while leaving your nose in the water. Take a quick glance at the buoy or landmark, then move your head to the side to breathe. Aim to sight every six strokes.


One of the main differences between pool swimming and open water is that there are no poolsides to hold onto and you usually can’t put your feet down on the bottom. Always choose a venue that is supervised and designated for swimming, rather than jumping into a random body of water. There will be lifeguards and safety crew in kayaks, so you be assured that you are being looked after even if you feel anxious.

No chlorine

Open water has the advantage of being free of chlorine. Swimming in chlorinated pools can lead to dry skin, hair and nails, irritated eyes, and a sore throat. Open water swimmers can enjoy the fresh water and air of their surroundings. Although having said that, pollen and algae in open water can also cause irritation to the nose, eyes and throat.

All items worn were gifted by adidas, but all opinions are my own.

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