01 October 2020

Training: Open water swimming tips for novice’s – part one

August 4, 2015
open water Swimming

Open water swimming is becoming ever more popular,  whether it’s part of a triathlon or a lake or sea challenge. If you’re new to it, then take a look at our tips to help you have a much more enjoyable experience.

open water Swimming

1. Prepare for your event by swimming in open water

This may sound obvious, but it’s amazing how many people do all their training in a pool and turn up at their event never having swum in open water.

It’s absolutely essential to learn how it feels to swim in open water before your event. Being fit and able to cover the distance is one thing, but failing to prepare for the environment can make all that training pointless.

Open water swimming is a very different environment to the pool in several ways, but once you are relaxed and confident you may find that you actually prefer it!

2. Understand the start conditions

From the minute you get into the water and realise that there is no wall to push off, to the fact that there are no sneaky rests to be had at the end of each lap – open water is different.

Depending on your event, you may find yourself starting by wading in and swimming away or hanging on to a pontoon with your legs hanging free. Sometimes your legs may feel like they are drifting back under the pontoon, but just gently kick and you will realise you are fine.

3. Get used to the temperature

The water is very likely to feel cold when you get in despite the fact you are wearing a wetsuit. When you get in, splash your face with the water or dip your head under. Some people like to pull the neck seal a bit and let a little water in – this will warm up.

Keep moving, treading water, moving your arm in a swimming motion and swap the arm that is holding on to the pontoon – basically warm-up. You will only have a short time before the start gun, but make the most off it so that you don’t get an adrenaline rush when you start.

4. Dealing with no lanes and other swimmers

Having no lanes and therefore other swimmers around you can feel very alien; you have a few choices here:

If you are starting on a long pontoon you will line up the full length before getting in the water, so before you walk out onto the pontoon either head to the front of back of your group. This way you will either be on the inside or outside edge of the group with clear water to one side.

If you do find yourself feeling cramped and pressurised on the start you can just hold back a second of two before starting – let the others go and then start calmly. Many novices start too fast and then go through a bad patch because they are used to stopping and turning.

Open water swimming is very much a tortoise and hare event. The main thing is not to panic – as long as you relax and have confidence in your ability then you will be fine.

5. Prepare for the fact that there is no pool end

The thought that there is no way of stopping can put a lot of people off open water swimming, but actually in many ways this makes the whole experience a lot more enjoyable and a lot less tedious than swimming endless lengths.

Listen carefully to the briefing and read the pre-event information. Fear mainly comes from a lack of knowledge, so find out as much as you can about your event, the course and the safety features in advance.

Remember if you do feel overwhelmed, you can still swim to the side of the course (so as not to get in the way of other swimmers) and tread water or change stroke or just slow up and take a breather if you need. Just having an anti-panic strategy in your mind will probably be enough to mean you won’t need it. And don’t forget there will be safety boats too.

Look out for the second part of our open water swimming tips coming next week

Danielle Sellwood, Sportsister
The Women’s Sports Magazine


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