In honor of Halloween next week, lets talk about something scary, open water swimming! For new athletes and veterans alike, open water swimming always has a little bit of scare factor involved, whether it be worrying about swimming straight or just making it out of the water without getting kicked in the face. But open water doesn’t have to be scary if you keep your head on straight and follow a couple simple tips to get you back to dry land in one piece.
Practice spotting in the pool. The hardest thing for most people about OWS is going in a straight line. After all, you don’t have that blue line on the bottom to stare at like in the pool. In order to make sure you know how to properly sight when you get in the lake, practice putting eyes on a stationary object at the end of the pool every few breaths during your workouts leading up to a race.
Practice breathing from both sides. When you get into a body of water that has a current and waves, you don’t want to be swallowing water every time you breath. Practice breathing both sides in the pool so that you can avoid swallowing waves or staring into the sun.
Practice your drafting. Just like on the bike, sitting right behind another swimmer lets you take advantage of their wake and can eliminate a little bit of drag. In group swims, practice sitting just far enough behind the swimmer in front of you to not be whacking their feet every stroke.
Be patient. If you are new to open water swimming, the first hundred meters of the race are going to be hectic. Don’t be afraid to let things settle down a little bit and start in the back of the pack. It will give you a better chance of not getting hit in the face or run over. Just relax and swim your own race. Just because everyone shoots full speed out of the gate doesn’t mean you have to. Just stay calm and keep swimming.
Don’t be afraid to get aggressive if you want to. Open water swimming can be a contact sport. Rarely does someone go their entire career without at least knocking arms with another athlete. If you are feeling strong on the day, don’t hesitate to push your way through the pack when the chaos starts. Its ok to bump arms, slap some feet, and keep other athletes from pushing you out of their way. Just don’t be a jerk about it and don’t go out of your way to hit someone!
Once you can get used to the chaos, open water swimming can be fun! Everyone gets nervous, but if you can keep your head on straight (and not lose your goggles or anything), you’ll have a good time!