t2coaching Tips to Conquer your Fears and Frustrations in Open Water


“What Chögyam Trungpa Rinpoche taught about the underlying, fundamental uncertainty—which scientific tests now prove is more frightening to us than physical pain—is that the very basis of the fear itself is doubting ourselves, not trusting ourselves.” -Pema Chodron

“What are your open water swimming fears or frustrations?” Fears can range from “fish monsters biting my feet” and just the plain “unknown” with no lane line, floor or walls to guide you, or maybe the ocean or jet ski waves the waves and “how do I get to the buoy in a straight line.”
Rational fears like having a bathroom emergency in the middle of the open body of while, while others were frustrations like goggles coming loose or filling with water.  Some of the most common phrases I hear, particularly from casual triathletes, are “I’m a really bad swimmer”, “I hate the swim”, “I am such a slow swimmer”, and “I hate the swim”. For many first-time triathletes, an open water swim can be intimidating.

Whether you have a FEAR or frustration, both can cause anxiety. If we allow ourselves the opportunity, we can usually learn whatever we set our minds to including swimming and more specifically swimming in an open water triathlon. Deciding to stop talking yourself down and rationalizing your fears or frustrations will make a dramatic improvement in your swimming. Tell yourself you are a good swimmer that just needs to develop the skills to overcome your fears. Success at open water swimming does not begin in a pool or a lake; it begins in your head. There are a limitless number of quotes from any number of people that say essentially the same thing – If you think you can or if you think you can’t, you are right.

If you have fears or frustrations about swimming in an open water triathlon, don’t panic, Practice! Once you practice the recommendations, you should expect to be more comfortable in open water and have a level of confidence from knowing what to expect while you’re out there.

First and foremost is your decision about your goal and WHY you want it for yourself, not unlike your decision to return to grad school, change your career or take on multisport, you must make a decision that is held with conviction before moving forward.

Below are some of the fears and frustrations triathletes have expressed to me along with ways to practice to overcome them.

Lists of Common Fears and Frustrations

Cold Water: Not being able to breath

•Wear a wetsuit, neoprene cap
•Sport Specificity- Practice swimming in cold water
•Warm up at least 10 minutes to get used to the cold
•Pace yourself, go slow, then go a little slower

Bathroom Emergencies 
•Discuss concerns with a Registered Dietican about pre race meals and hydration
•Wake up early so your system can have time to get moving


Maybe you are not ready, do not take the risk until you are

  • Wear a wetsuit for safety and practice floating

Strong tide or current Stingers! And other creatures

•Register for races with pool swims or in small lakes until you build confidence
•Check with the lifeguard station about what marine life is in the water? Is any of it harmful to humans?

  • Getting caught in weeds, the fear is real 🙂
  • Green, cloudy water and nothing to follow- Practice swimming with your eyes closed

Not being able to stop and touch the side, or the bottom
•Practice continuous swimming in the pool without touching the wall or bottom, when you need a break, stop and float
•Stop and hold on to a kayak, as long as you are not making forward progress its usually legal
•Practice sighting in the pool and at the lake
•Sighting tips

Reach out to me with questions, comments or concerns about pool or open water swimming by leaving me a voicemail 

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