Open water swimming comes with more challenges than pool swimming. This is mainly because you deal with currents, cold water, wildlife and dark waters that offer less visibility. Apart from these volatile situations, there is also a problem of mass confusion and the need for frequent sighting, which make open water swimming slow and difficult compared to the pool. While you can be fairly certain of completing your race in the pool, there is no guarantee that you can do the same in open water. In fact, you may not be able to start it at all depending on the prevailing conditions. This simply means that you will need to be highly motivated and prepared physically, mentally and emotionally when training and taking part in an outdoor swimming event.
The swimming leg is normally what trips people up in triathlons. Given the challenges of open water swimming, triathletes usually employ a number of techniques to make the swim easier.
The following are 3 tips to help you in open water swimming:
Practice, Practice, Practice
While swimming in the open water is not a piece of cake, you will have no choice but to practice swimming in it. It is also good to practice in your local swimming pool but since it differs from open water swimming you will need to get used to all sorts of conditions.
Another area that you need to practice on is wearing your wetsuit especially if you intend to swim in cold water. This is in terms of getting it to fit you properly and learning the techniques that work best when you are using it. This is to avoid dragging as a result of feeling heavy at the shoulders and arms.
Regular practice in the open water is a sure way of improving your results.
Stay safe (keep sighting)
There is no problem with focusing all your efforts to successful open water swimming but, your safety should always come first. Remember that open water can be dangerous as a result of wildlife, strong waves and low temperatures and so, in absence of a lifeguard on duty, you need someone to accompany you. Oceans and seas can be rough while the lakes can be dangerous towards the center due to boating. Even when you are swimming in designated areas, always remember to practice sighting so that you are aware of your surrounding and the direction that you are heading to stay on track. Unlike in the pool, there is no thick black line along the bottom in the open water. For this reason, the only guide is to lift your head to see where you are heading to as you swim. Sighting is also important because you will also need to keep track the floating markers that outline the swim course in a triathlon.
Stay calm (don’t burn out)
When you are training for open water swimming, the focus is mainly on yardage rather than speed. This can lead to injury and fatigue if it is not handled properly. The best way to avoid stress is to spend time learning your technique and breathing in a relaxed manner so that your body can tolerate long swimming distances. Other factors like poor visibility, cold water and crowded swimming may cause anxiety that can lead to struggling with breathing. Holding your breath usually increases the anxiety, which can drive you into a state of panic.
You should always stay calm and focus on your swimming and breathing technique.
Tailwind Endurance is your NYC hub for all your indoor cycling, swimming and professional coaching needs. Meet our ironman certified coaches and triathletes with years of experience. We can take you to the next level. We offer special swimming classes like triathlon specific training that includes triathlon training and open water swimming. Sign up for our classes to access any of our training resources.