The transition from swimming in a pool to swimming in open water can be a daunting one for some people. Once you get into open water, you no longer have lane ropes or a nice line down the centre of the lane to keep you swimming straight. Those of you that can only breathe to one side probably find that you tend not to go straight but instead veer to one side. There are many factors to consider; below I have listed 10 tips to help you with this transition.
- Always swim with a buddy, if you get into trouble its good to have someone there to help, plus you can work on techniques like drafting and open water starts.
- Be aware of the temperature of the water, do not spend too much time in very cold water, you can get disorientated and your swim stroke will no longer be effective.
- Check for visible signs of water currents and rips before entering, also be wary of dangerous conditions such as crashing or high waves.
- Warm up on shore by swinging your arms around. When you enter the water its a good idea to let the wetsuit fill up with water before you swim. The wetsuit is designed to work with water between you and the wetsuit to provide warmth and also to suck the wetsuit to your body ensuring a tight fit.
- Use non-petroleum based products such as body glide for lubrication (these do not damage the wetsuit), apply to the back of your neck to prevent chaffing and also to the top of your feet and ankles to aid in wetsuit removal.
- Breathing in open water is different to that in the pool, in the pool you should look to the side, but in open water you need to be looking to the sky.
- Bilateral breathing has a number of benefits so start doing it! Not only will it help you to swim straighter but when you have waves crashing in on your left or right side you have the ability to breathe away from the waves. Breathing into the waves is not a good idea, you either get a mouthful of water or are unable to take a breath!
- Sighting is important, practice, practice, practice! Sight regularly in a race so you can adjust your direction of swimming. I’ve seen a lot of people waste energy zig zagging on a course. Look for landmarks behind the buoy, this makes sighting much easier.
- Drafting behind someone is the most efficient however be weary that not all swimmers swim straight. So although you are getting a great draft they could be going off course. Always sight while drafting, if they are off course then drop them and try another swimmer.
- Race preparation is vital, make sure you know the entry and exit points and the course, look for landmarks that you can use for sighting. For the start of the race make sure you position yourself in the right place, do not start at the front if you are not a strong swimmer. If you are unsure start at the outside.
Use your time wisely in the open water, practice the techniques you will need for racing and get use to swimming in a wetsuit. The more people you can get together the better, swim as a tight group so you get use to having other swimmers around you. Most importantly smile, there is nothing better than swimming in the sea!
I'll be doing an open water session at Pegasus Sunday 27th March, contact if you are interested in joining.