Get Your Game On

Aug 1, 2003
Outside Magazine
Swim Smarter

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Open-Water Swimming
The Game: Whether it's a triathlon or a straight-up race, the start of any open-water competition resembles a rugby scrum: You have to keep your cool and maintain your stroke rhythm while other people pummel you. Lance Watson, an elite multisport coach for Carmichael Training Systems, in Colorado Springs, Colorado, recommends THE SCRUMBLER, a game that mimics the starting line's mosh-pit conditions.
The Rules: Grab three to five friends and set off as a group across a lake or pool at an average pace. Immediately, do your best to foul one another's rhythms: Swim over legs, mash your elbow into someone's back—in short, treat it like an aquatic game of bumper cars. Warning: Try to avoid taking a foot to the chin. The object is to move forward, not to drown one another. Continue for about 130 strokes and then rest. If you're still all friends, repeat. After a few rounds, you'll be ready for any race—or a brawl at a swim-up bar in Cancún. Whitewater Rafting
The Game: A good rafting crew relies less on deft paddling skills than on teamwork and boat awareness. Mark Fixter, a whitewater guide with River Odyssey West, in Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, likes to use THE TRUST WALK—a balancing drill performed right after he launches a boat—to size up how well his clients will work as a team, and also to get 'em wet.
The Rules: On a flat stretch of water, have a crew of at least six stand up on the sides of the raft, side by side in a circle, with arms linked. Slowly begin to move along the edge in one direction; the goal is to rotate around the wobbly raft without the circle becoming unlinked—or somebody tumbling into the drink. "In order for it to work, everyone has to move at the same pace, calmly and smoothly," Fixter says. "It's rare that a crew can make it around once." Even if everybody swims at some point during the walk, the drill isn't a wash. "At least you'll know who will be the first to fall out of the boat in the rapids," says Fixter. But if you succeed, consider yourself and your crew dialed for the whitewater ahead.

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