Summer is finally here and what better way to celebrate than plunging into open water for the first time. If you have never raced or trained in open water fear not, because the more you practice the quicker your fear goes away. Here are our favorite tips and tools for open water swimming.
Prevent a Kick to the Face
Maybe your fear isn’t sharks; it’s getting kicked in the face. It occurs frequently if you are in the water with a ton of other racers who want to set their PR like you do. Practice the Catch-up swim stroke in training so you can execute it during the race when you need to protect yourself from other swimmer’s legs. This stroke positions you to have one arm always in front, which makes a barrier between you and someone else’s foot.
Goggles underneath Cap
Some people prefer to put their goggles over their swim caps, but if your cap falls off mid swim your goggles are going with it too. Your goggles might also get wrestled off of your face if you get kicked or accidentally grabbed. Wearing your goggles underneath your swim cap will help them stay on for the full length of your swim.
Don’t Catch a Wave
Open Water means waves and waves might spell out danger if you are unsure how to handle them. In most races you will not be subjected to a relatively large wave, but on occasion and without warning they can happen. If you see a large wave coming towards you, remember to dive, grab, and push. Dive underneath the large wave and if you can, or if you feel comfortable enough, grab the sand underneath you. If you hold onto the sand, this makes the wave pass easily over you without you getting dragged with it. Then push off the sand to come back up and continue your swim. You won’t be swept away with the wave and you won’t lose distance.
This is hard to do for most people who transition to open water swimming, because we are used to breathing on our favorite side and having a strong side. Get comfortable breathing on both sides of your stroke. It will help prevent you from pulling to one side or the other, plus you don’t have to wait for your preferred side to breathe if you are running out of breath. There is not much to help prevent your favored side from pulling you off course, which means you’ll have to rely on markers to reel you back on to the right path. If you look up too much you’ll waste precious time. While you are still training in the pool look up and choose a marker. Train looking up between a few of your strokes. When you are comfortable, increase the difficulty by lowering the amount of times you look up to your marker. This will translate into you swimming straighter and you being more in control of your path.
Drafting is Key
Maybe you have drafted in the pool before, or maybe you’ve only swum by yourself, regardless drafting in open water is an easy way to help you save energy for the other two legs of the triathlon. When you draft someone in open water, you can limit the amount of sighting you do because you can follow their lead. This saves you the energy you would have to use to look up. Don’t worry if you touch their feet from time to time, but try your best not too.
Cold Water Blues
The ocean can be cold, very cold. It may not be on your first race, but you will experience swimming in cold water if you swim in open water. There are a few ways to prevent you from freezing up when you hit the water. Do a quick warm-up before you enter the water. This will help get your body to increase blood flow, which means you’ll be warmer in the water than if you forgo this step. To help reduce the cold shock to your face, blow bubbles when you hit the water. It sounds a little weird, and you might feel funny doing it, but it’ll prevent the shock of the cold water on your face and the shock you feel in your lungs.
Whether you’re scared of getting kicked in the face or you absolutely dread cold water, you can overcome the obstacles that open water throws at you. Remember that open water can be dangerous for people who cannot swim well, so train hard in the pool and start easy in the ocean.
Good Luck and Keep Swimming!