It’s #TriathlonThursday and week 3 of our Spirit of Belron Blog. Today, I discuss how to have a relaxed and enjoyable open water swim.

Swimming in open water gives me a real feeling of freedom, but even those of us who swim regularly have moments of anxiety. If there’s a venue near you that organises open water swims, I’d recommend giving it a try. They’re very welcoming, and helpful. You can also hire a wetsuit to practise in.

Ready to take the plunge?

First things first, remember you will be taking your wetsuit off in public so make sure you wear something underneath! A swimsuit or tri-suit is ideal. Once you’re all zipped up (you may need help from your team mates with this), here are some tips to get you feeling relaxed in the water:

  1. Ease the wetsuit up higher on your body so your shoulders aren’t restricted. Wearing a wetsuit is a bit like doing ‘weight training’ for your chest against tight rubber. Your chest has to work a bit harder. This is normal.
  2. Now it’s time to get in the water. Take it slowly and allow the wetsuit to fill a little. This is the cold bit! Once you’re in the water up to your neck, pull the neck of the wetsuit forward and allow a SMALL ‘gulp’ of water into the suit. This will also be cold. As you move the water around inside the suit it will act as a lubricant and the water will warm up. The water in the suit is a layer between you and the wetsuit and will allow more movement under your arms and over your shoulders.  
  3. Now bend forward and put your face in the water (whilst standing). Blow bubbles a few times to relax your breathing. Lift your feet and you will realise that the wetsuit acts as a buoyancy aid. Try a few strokes. 

And relax….

Yes, that’s right, relax. Very often when we’re anxious, we start swimming too quickly so try to pace those first few strokes. Starting slow helps you find your rhythm. 

If at any point you feel in trouble or need a rest, roll onto your back, put your hand up, and float until assistance arrives.

How to swim in a straight line (don’t follow the person in front!)

I’ve found out on several occasions, that the person I’m following is not always swimming in a straight line. I advise looking where you’re going every fourth fifth or sixth stroke. 

Look for something on the land in the direction that you’re heading. This may be a tall tree, the edge of a building, or a flag in the transition area. These are much easier to see than anything that is at water level, especially if things are bobbing around on a windy day. 

Getting out of the water

As you do your last two strokes into standing up, open the neck of the wet suit and allow a ‘gulp’ of water into it. This will make it easier to get off.

Swim right to the edge and make the most of the assistance to help you out up the slope. You may feel a bit light-headed as you go from lying in the water to standing up but this is quite normal. 

Open water swimming can be so enjoyable and this often takes people by surprise. If you enjoy it too then please share your experiences and tips below. If not, why not give some of these tips a go on your next swim and let me know how you get on.

I’ll be back next week to explore some tips about transition and getting onto your bike. 

About the author:

Chris Roberts is a British Triathlon Federation High Performing Coach.

Photo: Chris Roberts

Chris joined Farnham Triathlon Club in 2000 and since then has become a self-confessed triathlete addict! He’s competed in all distances from sprint through to middle distance and now focuses on coaching. 

Chris is a qualified Level 3 coach with the British Triathlon Federation and is a British Triathlon and Sports Coach UK facilitator, assessor and mentor. He’s particularly interested in sports psychology and motivation, and loves seeing the excitement as people achieve more than they expected. 

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