Open water swimming can be a bit of a shock to the system, especially if you are not fully prepared for it. For good measure prepare, prepare, and prepare some more. Ideally, you should have a few practice sessions in the open water each week in the lead up to your event. I cannot stress enough how important it is to get into the cold water and adapt your body to the environment. If you cannot access open water regularly, it is completely acceptable to practice in the comfort of your swimming pool.
Read the tips below and find out how you can tweak your practice to improve your performance and get the most out of your open water swim:
Get Into the Water – Endure!
I keep harping on about the importance of adapting to the open water. Trust me, just get in and do it- regularly. Beginners can either opt to take part in open water swimming lessons or visit your local lido to begin the adaption process. You can build up to Lake swims and enter into smaller competitions before you decide to go for the whole hog.
Pick a Stroke and Stick with it
Freestyle is the most endurable stroke but practice with whatever makes you feel the most comfortable. It is best to incorporate stroke work into your swimming sessions and get into the habit of counting the number of strokes it takes to complete a length. You must aim to reduce your stroke count but maintain a similar speed. You want to be like a marathon runner, maintain a constant speed and don’t start off too fast.
In open water, it’s not as important to have a high elbow like in the pool because waves can be high – it’s more about swinging the arms over the waves and then grabbing onto water.
Decide on Your Breathing Pattern
The majority of people tend to breathe every two freestyle strokes in the pool, or if they are sprinting they might hold their breath throughout the race. I encourage bilateral breathing.
In distance swimming you’ll most likely breathe every three strokes, and then when you are tired you can breathe every two. Be careful of over-rotating, you only have to turn your head a little bit to breathe. The other thing to watch out for is being hit in the face as you turn to breathe, if there is someone close to you, turn in the opposite direction to avoid any accidents.
Be Aware of Your Surroundings
In open-water races you are usually swimming in a pack and lanes don’t exist, so you have to be very aware of your surroundings. It can be very chaotic if there are hundreds of people around you, so practice swimming in a group at your local pool to get used to the situation. If you are a newbie, you may want to stay outside or to the back of the pack, especially if you don’t feel comfortable in the group.
The best advice to take away from this is to not overdo it – a good open water swim is the one where you get out and want to do it again. So jump in and enjoy.