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Karen Ella Sales, Swim Coach 26 Jan 2022 5 min read

5 Tips For Overcoming Open Water Swim Fears

If you’re looking to complement your cycling or running training, open water swimming is a brilliant choice. It requires a little technique, commitment in the water, and a lot of confidence.

Here are some basic tips to help you prepare and overcome any fears – whether you’re a beginner, a seasoned swimmer, or training for an event.

1. Use the pool for swim training and practicing open water drills

We always recommend having a weekly swim training schedule, as it’s important to familiarise yourself with the water and understand your swim profile by getting as much water training depending on your needs. Interval sets, threshold, speedwork, and stroke drills should all happen in the pool. Some open water skills can also be practiced in the pool like sighting, bilateral breathing, and turns.

Swim training in a pool

 

2. Technique is key

Always expect the unexpected as different situations can arise when open water swimming, so it’s important to be prepared. The conditions of the water are always changing, and you could encounter unwanted objects or debris along your way, or swim into others accidentally.

It can be challenging to swim in a straight line, but if there's no colourful buoy to spot on, try to look for a marker towards the direction you are going to, for example a red building or a single coconut tree, and follow that to stay on course. Practice high stroke rate swims to get into the rhythm of your swim and do sighting patterns, for example six strokes and one sight. You don't need to lift your head too high unless it's really choppy. Make sure you breathe on either side if the waves start to get crazy.

Open water swimming

 

3. Study your swim route and swim with a buddy 

We always advise swimming with a friend for extra safety. Get yourself an orange float so you can easily be spotted in case there is a problem, or if it helps give you a confidence boost in open water. Know your swim route and if you're in a big group training, plan for your re-groups along the way and look out for each other.

Swimming with a buddy

4. When in doubt, get out! 

As well as checking the tide schedule to see when high tide is, it's important to check the weather to get a feel for what it will be like in the area where you're swimming. You can always change your route somewhere closer to shore in case the weather turns bad during your swim. If you suddenly feel nauseous or seasick, or if you injure yourself and think you can no longer continue, make you way out as quickly and as calmly as possible. 

Open Water Swimming

5. Take your essentials 

We recommend buying two different types of goggles – a tinted pair and a clear pair – that fit your face well. Get a standard swim cap in a bright colour to make yourself as visible as possible. If you're swimming in the cold, try layering two hats or buy a thermal one. Lastly, if you're training when it’s cold, invest in an open water suit or a wetsuit.

We hope these tips help you on your open water swimming journey. Take it one step at a time and remember, focus on small goals to help you have a more relaxed swim.

Discover UFIT Endurance

Want to join our swimming community? We run monthly open water swim sessions, as well as two weekly group pool sessions and one to one technique analysis. Find out more and sign up for your one-week free trial.

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UFIT weekly swim sessions

 

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Karen Ella Sales, Swim Coach

Being a competitive swimmer and an athlete at a very young age, Karen learned to value the importance of sports discipline. After moving to Singapore with her family in 2008, Karen has completed several Ironman 70.3 races but is now purely back to training in swimming, joining some open water races and masters swimming competitions around the globe. Karen has joined the coaching staff in one of the most prestigious international schools in Singapore. Alongside coaching swimmers and triathletes, she's also a part of Team FINIS as FINIS Singapore ambassador.