When I raced my first triathlon in 1992 in the warm brown Michigan water, I swam as fast as I could to get out, it felt gross. I did not wear a wetsuit and don’t remember how I sighted, did not have any guidance.
Since then I have completed over 1500 events including practice swims adds up to many open water swim experiences
Surviving open water swimming can be a challenge, especially for beginners. Here are some tips to help you navigate the unique aspects of open water swimming and overcome any anxiety or obstacles:
- Address anxiety in the pool: Before venturing into open water, work on building confidence and comfort in the pool. Focus on basic swimming skills, floatation, balance, and stroke technique. Improving these skills will help you conserve energy and feel more at ease in the open water.
- Practice taking off and putting on goggles: It’s common for goggles to get hit or knocked off in open water swimming. In the pool, practice treading water or floating while taking your goggles on and off to simulate real-life situations and ensure you can quickly adjust if needed.
- Simulate swimming close to others: In open water races, you’ll often swim in close proximity to other athletes. Simulate this by swimming with others in a crowded pool lane. Practice swimming in close quarters, dealing with contact, and maintaining your composure in a crowded environment. How to Survive and Open Water Swim Start
- Swim with closed eyes: To simulate lower visibility that you might encounter in open water, try swimming the length of the pool with your eyes closed. This exercise will help you rely on your other senses and develop confidence even when you can’t see clearly.
- Get comfortable in a wetsuit: If you plan to wear a wetsuit during open water events, invest in one and practice swimming in it. Wetsuits can feel constricting at first, especially around the chest during breathing, so familiarize yourself with the sensation and adapt your technique accordingly.
- Warm up properly: If allowed by the race venue, warm up in the open water before your wave start time. Spend at least 10 minutes acclimating to the water temperature and getting your heart rate up. This will help prevent a sudden increase in heart rate and breathing during the race.
- Practice sighting: Sighting refers to lifting your head out of the water to spot buoys or landmarks. Use the “alligator eyes” technique by clearing your goggles from the water and looking forward while exhaling, then turn your head to the side to inhale. Sight frequently to stay on course and conserve energy by swimming in a straight line.
- Position yourself strategically: Choose your position in the swim wave based on your ability. Strong swimmers can benefit from swimming behind faster swimmers to catch a draft and conserve energy. Beginners may want to line up on the outside edge of the wave for a clearer view and wait a few seconds after the start to avoid collisions.
- Practice swim-to-run transitions: If you can’t practice open water run transitions, simulate them in the pool. After a race pace swim segment, immediately hop out of the water and jog in place to simulate going from a horizontal to a vertical position with an elevated heart rate.
Remember, each time you practice open water swimming, you gain valuable experience that will contribute to your performance on race day. Stay consistent, keep learning, and enjoy the journey. I
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