Courtesy of Original Watermen, a SwimSwam partner.
The world of open water has exploded over the past decade with the open water race being added to the Olympic sport lineup at the 2008 Beijing games. Before that, the open water race’s highest platform was that of the FINA World Championships where it had been recognized since 1991. There have been multiple superstar distance swimmers who have avoided the open water scene because of a fear of open water. Thalassophobia is the fear of seas or deep body of water such as ocean, lake and even large rivers. The lack of training opportunities has also had a big impact on swimmers as colder climates do not have year-round bodies of water in which to train. The following ways will help you deal with your Thalassophobia as a swimmer.
Acknowledge Your Fears Then Learn About Them
The first thing that you will have to do as a hopeful open water swimmer is to face your fears of the sea life that could be lurking in the water below you. The most common animal people are afraid of is the shark. It is time to use your smartphone or computer to help you face this fear. Learn about facts such as the amount of participants in open water swimming this past year compared to the amount of shark bites (not to mention shark bites actually at those open water swim events).
The fact is that people can see sharks while on their swim depending on the clarity. Not panicking, and controlling your thoughts can help you be able to swim through this situation and not think twice about it. If you are anxious about another animal then research it, as well. If you fear something like drowning if you cramp, it is important to remember your preparation and planning; having the right coaching staff and evaluating the prerace conditions are vital to being prepared to handle in-race issues and even to avoid them altogether. Not all races have the competitors’ best interests in mind, so make educated decisions such as not participating in a race in 90 degree-plus or 50 degree-minus water.
Practice with a Coach in a Kayak
Like pool swimming, race strategies could not be more important in open water swimming. Aside from pacing and drafting strategies, you also need mental strategies to handle nerves, self-intimidation and, of course, fear. The fear of swimming in open water is rooted in the fear of the unknown and typically further intensified by the sensationalized depiction of sharks and the deep (dark) open water in well-known TV shows and movies.
Having a coach in a kayak nearby can greatly/immensely help train you to quell these fears. In addition to helping motivate you, it will also help you practice focusing your thoughts on something else than the depths below you. Like many things, the more repetitions you have swimming in the open water, the easier it becomes to concentrate less on your fears and more on your training and racing strategies.
Preparation is Key
As with athletes in any sport, improper preparation can lead a swimmer into many unfortunate situations such as limited vision, skin rashes and chaffing as well as cramping. If you’ve ever dealt with severe chaffing, especially while trying to physically exert your energy and focus, then you know this certainly deserves a respectful concern and prior preparation. Use oil lubrication in tandem with comfortable, ergonomic swimsuits to avoid those rashes that can distract you. The wrong wetsuit can cause the same chaffing issues regardless of using proper lubrication. That’s why if you’re racing in a wetsuit it’s wise to wear a comfortable base layer, such as Original Watermen’s women’s swim shorts or their men’s compression shorts which have a rash free guarantee.
Such performance compression shorts for men can be excellent gear to wear on their own in a race as well as training. Original Watermen prides itself on the fact they offer professional-grade, long-lasting men’s and women’s swimsuits also designed comfortably for extended training.
These watermen compression shorts also help sustain body temperature by improving blood flow and thus reducing the risk of suffering cramps. Also, to help avoid cramping, make sure that you warmup prior to your race and stay hydrated in the days leading up to it.
Go Earn Your Salt
Facing your fears of the open water will take some time and work. If you are proactive about facing it, then it can change your life. There are just some swimmers made for open water – regardless of their success in the pool – and you won’t know it until you get out there and Earn Your Salt.
So, take a shot at an open water race to see how it suits you; perhaps it will help catapult your swimming career to the next level!