“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
A few months ago I posted the question, “What are your open water swimming fears?” I received many responses. Fears ranged from “fish monsters biting my feet” and just the plain “unknown” of no lane line, floor, walls, the waves and “how do I get to the buoy in a straight line.”
Some responses were rational fears like having a bathroom emergency in the middle of the race while others were frustrations like goggles coming loose or filling with water.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Then you can:
•Conquer your fears
•Swim, bike and run the distance
•Finish with a smile on your face
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
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 Emergency
•Discuss concerns with a RD about pre race meals and hydration
•Wake up early so your system can have time to get moving
•Practice treading water and back stroke in a pool
•Stay horizontal in the water, do not let your legs drop, it takes too much energy to float in that position
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
Green, cloudy water and nothing to follow
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: http://www.gotribalnow.com/expert/open-water-swimming
Reach out to me with questions, comments or concerns about pool or open water swimming, Health, Fitness or Sport.
5 Causes of Breathless Swimming
Ironman University Certified Coach, 16x Ironman Finisher, 8x Kona Finisher and author of "How To Swim Faster in 30 Days", Wendy Mader explains in detail, the 5 issues that can cause breathlessness in the water:
Not exhaling Immediately before you inhale
Dragging lower body
Kicking too much
Dropping your arm too soon when you rotate