It is not easy to get started with open water swimming and it can actually be daunting to move from the lap lane into the open water. I took a long time to warm to open water swimming and thought there were no real people involved in the sport, only super human half dolphin, swimmers covered in sheep fat. I thought I would be swimming out on my own, but it turned out that I was not the only one who wanted to get the trill and adventure of swimming without the constraints of four walls with a growing community of swimmers wanting to get involved.
The following are some of the ways that you can make the transition as smooth as possible.
1. Swim with others
Not just for safety, swimming with a group will challenge you to swim further and in more difficult conditions that you would when you are alone. Your first open water swim may be a little scary, so don’t feel defeated. This is why it is a great idea to find a group to swim with who will help you get over any initial fear.
2. Check the weather report and conditions
Depending on where you are planning to swim, it is worth checking if there is going to be any change in weather. Sudden changes could cause a major change in water conditions. As well, try to get some idea of the area you will be swimming in and how rips or currents affect the water.
3. Wear appropriate gear
Make sure the gear you’re wearing is appropriate for the outdoor environment you are swimming in. Winter swimming may call for, not only a wetsuit, but gloves, neoprene cap and boots. If you need glasses, it may be worth getting a pair of prescription goggles to make sure you can see markers in the distance.
4. You still need to warm up
Even though you don’t have any lane ropes, you still need to warm up. By spending five minutes, you can get you use to the conditions, including any waves, currents and water temperature.
5. Sight regularly
Always remember to sight regularly as it is easy to find yourself travelling off course. Bilateral breathing will help if you have any imbalance that can send you off course.
6. Fuel and hydration
Make sure you are properly fuelled especially in cold conditions or if you are planning to swim for a long period of time. You will also need to be replenishing fluids.
7. Tackle large waves the same way you would tackle a hill climb
I tell people now that when you first get into choppy conditions, think the same way as tackling small hill climbs in the water. Slow and steady, short strokes, breath continuously and then up the pace when you feel more confident.
Tri Swim Coach Ambassador
Vince works as an IT Engineer in Melbourne, Australia where he lives with his cat Tim Tam. He has been a runner for longer than he can remember. He competes in distance running races, open water swims and long course triathlons.