April 27, 2018
The weather is finally heating up and so is the water temperature – marginally. Over the last few weeks you should have been practicing your open water swim skills in the pool and now feel confident enough to brave swimming outdoors.
Open water swimming can take place in bodies of water such as lake, rivers and sea. Flat or still water (water that has minimal movement) is the safest place to start your outdoor swim training, for example a lake. Try to avoid rivers or the sea as these can have currents and fast flowing water.
Find out from your local Triathlon Club if they have regular open water group swim training. Before starting out though, take a note of the tips below:
Only swim with other competent swimmers and have rescue cover nearby. Never swim alone.
Prepare for the cold water temperature. Wear a full length wetsuit and two swim caps or a neoprene skull cap. You could also wear neoprene booties and gloves for extra warmth.
Enter the water where it is shallow and take your time to acclimatise to the cold. Wet your face and let your wetsuit fill with water. After a short while the layer of water trapped between your wetsuit and your skin will warm up.
Navigation. Even when swimming alongside others you will still need to lift your head to check you are heading in the right direction. You cannot rely on others to take the shortest route. Don’t lift your head too high, keep your eyes just above the water level and try to sight with as little disruption to your stroke as possible.
Walls and weeds. There are no walls in open water so you might find you tire more quickly than usual. Instead of swimming out towards the middle, swim parallel to the shore so you are never too far from land. Weeds and plant life can be under the water so try not to panic if you feel something touch your hand or leg!
A mass start. It is likely there will be a lot of swimmers starting at the same time as you which can be a shock. It is difficult to replicate this in training but this is where training with a club will help. Practice group starts from a horizontal floating position and swim close to the others.
Treading water is a useful skill to master. It means you can take a rest, adjust your goggles or look for friends if need be.
Ensure that you have a decent pair of goggles. There are many types of goggles on the market so do your research, for example: polarised, mirrored or clear lens. Ideally have a couple of different pairs to hand and choose on the day depending on the weather.
Relax and stay calm. I know it’s easier said than done but this is the most important tip of all. Get out there and enjoy!
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