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



When I asked the question “What are your open water swimming fears or frustrations?” in my private facebook group, fears  ranged from, fish monsters biting my feet,  no lane line, floor or walls to guide,  waves and generally the unknown (most common answer from those that never swam in open water). Some of the most common phrases I read include “I’m a really bad swimmer”, “I hate the swim”, “I am such a slow swimmer”.

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.

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
  • Sports Specificity- Practice swimming in cold water
  • Acclimate to cold water by taking cold showers and ice baths
  • Warm up at least 10 minutes to get used to the cold. Check out more tips here.
  • Pace yourself, go slow, then go a little slower


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


More Tips Click here


  • 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 it is legal
  • Practice sighting in the pool and at the lake
  • Sighting tips

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.

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

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