Taking your swim out of the pool and into the open-water

by Triathlon Coach Mike Huddleston

Thinking about doing an open water race in the near future but you have never swam in a lake or river?  The thought of swimming in anything other than a nice pristine pool to a beginner swimmer can be very intimidating.  The nice clear water and known depths provide a reasonable sense of security to swimmers of all levels.

Getting ready to move into the open water brings with it certain anxiety moments that can quickly be overcome with just a few simple tips:

  1. Learn how to sight in the pool before you go out.  Learning how to lift your head and look at an object such as a diving platform or something o  the pool deck will help you learn how to sight in the open-water to navigate your way around.
  2. Never swim alone. This sounds simple but you should never go out for an open-water swim by yourself.  Always have someone who can swim with you or with someone in a kayak to go beside you as you practice.
  3. Stay close to shore as you begin to build your confidence.  Before you move into deeper water stay close to shore or a boat dock and venture out as you gain confidence.
  4. Get a feel for the water temperature.  If the water is cold give yourself a chance to acclimate to the temperature before you swim too far away from shore.  Go under and come up several times to get your airways opened back up from the cooler water.  If the water is warm expect to feel fatigued faster since your body is not able to cool itself efficiently in the water.
  5. Get googles made for open-water swimming.  Open water googles open up your peripheral vison and will make sighting easier than a google made for pool swimming.  
  6. Start slow and build into the swim.  Start with a comfortable pace and build into your swim.  Starting slow will allow you to settle into a nice swim stroke.  Once your stroke is good and sight is going well increase your effort level throughout the swim to a pace that you can comfortably hold through the entire remaining distance.
  7. Practice drafting.  Practice drafting with your swim partner.  Swim just off to the side and below the hip or their feet to reduce your effort in the swim.  Swimming in the drafting position can reduce your swim effort by as much as 10 percent.

If you’re looking for guidance in your first open water swim experience consider joining us for Tri 201.  Details and registration are posted HERE.

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