Making the transition from swimming in a pool to swimming in open water is not easy, but it is something that any would-be triathlete will need to work on…
The team at Zoggs have put together the following tips to help you stay safe and make your first trips into the open water go as smoothly as possible.
1. Get the right equipment
Making sure that you have a good hat and a high quality pair of goggles is a must. A wetsuit will help you to stay warm (but make sure that it meets the requirements for your sport), and earplugs can help to prevent irritation. Consider using a tow float in training for safety reasons, and also wear sunscreen if you are swimming in the summer months.
2. Acclimatise properly
In the UK, open bodies of water can vary massively in temperature depending on the location and time of year, and they are often a lot cooler than an indoor pool. Start with short trips into the water, wearing a good wetsuit, and work up to longer swims. Note that some triathlons prohibit wetsuits, so you will need to build up to training in cooler waters without them.
3. Build confidence
There are no pool walls to hold onto when you need a break while you’re swimming in open water, so you will need to work up to swimming long distances. Start swimming in a shallow area, moving from buoy to buoy, and increase the distance you swim as you gain confidence.
4. Swim with a partner
Having someone to swim with will help you to stay safe, and provide motivation and confidence too. Try to swim with someone of a similar ability level, and also work together to safely build confidence and endurance.
5. Focus on efficiency
Swimming in open water can be tiring, so it is a good idea to learn how to swim efficiently, saving energy. This will help you to travel long distances, and to cope if you ever have to fight current. Efficient swimming techniques are good for injury prevention too. Try to keep your head low, and to swim underneath the waves. If you are not confident that your stroke is efficient, consider working with a swimming coach to refine it.
6. Learn sighting
Sighting is the most important skill an open water swimmer can possess. Learn how to focus on a point that is beyond your target, and swim towards that. This will help you to ensure that you are swimming in a straight line. Some people breathe while they are sighting, but this is not the most efficient way of swimming. Try to keep your head low, and sight by simply lifting your eyes above the water line.
As a beginner you will be focused on conserving energy. More advanced swimmers will want to get a fast start, and fall into a good rhythm early on. Prepare yourself for entering the water by wetting your face and neck.