This is an exciting time for the discipline of open water swimming. This aspect of swimming has been popular in various factions of the swimming community for decades. Now more than ever, it’s becoming more mainstream for people to leave the confines of the pool and branch out into open bodies of water. Yet for many the question remains, how do I get started. There’s no definitive path, but there are some suggestions to get you started.
First and foremost – put safety above everything else. Swimming in open water is exhilarating, rewarding and fun, but it’s a different experience from swimming in a pool. Some things should be obvious: never swim alone, don’t swim in conditions that are beyond your ability, and don’t swim in unguarded water (a lifeguard on shore or an escort boat with trained safety personnel). A few things that may not be so obvious are understanding the effects of temperature, currents and nutrition. In each of these areas is vital to KNOW YOUR LIMITS. As general rule of thumb, if you think conditions are beyond what you can handle then don’t go. When you go to a new location scout it out by talking to the locals, lifeguards and watermen. Once you studied the conditions and taken safety precautions you are best equipped to have a great experience.
It’s important to spend ample time training and honing your skills in the pool too. Practice swimming side by side with fellow swimmers in a lane to simulate the conditions of swimming in a pack. Take out the lane lines in the pool and practice racing along the perimeter of the pool or even drop in some buoys. You can also do repeats with “no walls” and practicing sighting by doing drills like “alligator eyes”. Due to the intensity required to race open water a highly competitive level, you’ll find open water swimmers doing pool workouts to simulate open water conditions and stimulate the physiological adaptations needed to excel.
As the days get longer in the northern hemisphere and the waters warm it’s good time to hit the open water (although the most committed among us are hitting the open water all year round). We’ll have more tips and ideas for your open water swimming enjoyment here on SwimSwam.