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.
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.
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.
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.
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.