Diving in at the Deep End – Open Water Swimming for Beginners

As the lockdown eases open water venues are opening and so lots of triathletes and swimmers alike are flocking to venues around the country. Many thanks to all the venues finding new ways of operating, that feeling of swimming after months out of the water is like no other!

So many new triathletes main fear is of the open water, but you are one of many. Swimming in a pool is quite different to outdoors but the principles remain the same so with a few little tips you are sure to be on your way in the nearest lake/river/sea to you! There’s no need to be intimidated by all the people strutting about in neoprene. Plus there are no gross changing rooms or overcrowded lanes here!

Fyi most venues now require you to book a specific time & date online in advance. Just showing up is not an option, so make sure to check online before you go!

If you are new to open water or just an infrequent swimmer here are my top tips to overcoming your fears & making the most of your time in the lake/sea/river:

Don’t swim alone
Go with a friend who has done it before. We can meet up socially distanced with one other person outside. So why not arrange to meet at the lake at the same time. The extra chatting as you get into the water will take your mind off the cold and they can look out for you as you go around the course

Take your time
Let yourself get used to the water temperature as you walk in. Get used to the feel of the water and duck your head under to check the visibility. The water temperature may change as you go around.

Wear a wetsuit
It will keep you warm and also provides buoyancy. So if you want to stop swimming for a break you can float really easily by turning on your back. If you are buying a wetsuit make sure it is tight enough so it feels almost uncomfortable on dry land but not so tight that when you get in it is restrictive to breathe or around the shoulders. Bodyglide or similar is also great for the back of your neck to stop any rubbing.

Know the course
Organised venues generally have buoys for you to swim around in a set course. Find out if there are any shallower sections where you can put your feet down. Pick the shortest option for your first go and just use the first lap to get used to the water. You can always progress to a longer lap later.

Keep calm & Enjoy
There are no walls to push off in open water so you will be swimming continuously. Relax into your stroke and let the wetsuit do the work. Breathe slowly, out into the water and in on either side of your arm stroke. Try looking ahead every 3 to 5 strokes, this is called sighting. Only swim as far as you think you can, stay within your limitations. Swimming with a tow float can also help your confidence.

Remember its totally OK to stop for a rest, swim breaststroke or get out earlier than planned. Its so much more free & interesting to swim in the lake than up and down a lane so lets embrace this time!

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