Open-water swimming is one of the most exhilarating sports you can do. You’re out in nature, surrounded by beautiful scenery, and you’re getting a great workout at the same time. It’s a wonderful way to spend your free time, but it can also be dangerous if you don’t know what you’re doing.
If you’re thinking about getting into open-water swimming, you’ve probably got a lot of questions. How to get ready? What’s the equipment? How do I stay safe? How do I not die?
I’ve got answers for all those things, and more! Here’s everything you need to know about open-water swimming.
1. Gear yourself up
First things first: you’re going to need to get yourself ready for the water. This means getting your gear together and making sure you have everything you need before you hit the waves.
Whether you’re a seasoned open-water swimmer or just getting started, there are some mandatory things you need to know before you hit the water.
- Wetsuit—A wetsuit is designed to keep you warm while you’re in the water—they’re ideal for open-water swimming because they’ll help keep you from getting chilled during your swim.
- Tow float—A tow float is a small, inflatable tube that you can use to help you swim when you’re tired or just need a little extra support in the water.
- Goggles—Goggles are a must-have for any open-water swimmer. They will help to protect your eyes from the salt water and keep them from stinging.
- Cap—A cap will help keep your head warm, which will prevent hypothermia while you’re exercising outside in the elements.
There are also a few recommended things you’ll want to make sure you have with you.
- Nose clip—A nose clip keeps your nose from filling with water, which can make you feel like you’re drowning.
- Boots and gloves—This will help keep your feet warm and prevent blisters from forming on your hands.
- Earplugs—Earplugs keep the water out of your ear canal and prevent infections from developing.
- Flask—If you’re going to be in the water for a long time, it can be difficult to keep track of how much fluid you’re drinking and when you should take a break from swimming so that you don’t become dehydrated.
2. Differ pool and open water swimming
Pool and open water swimming are two totally different types of swimming.
Pool swimming is a controlled, safe environment. You’re guaranteed to have a lane, you know exactly how deep it is, and there’s almost always someone around to help if you need it.
In open-water swimming, on the other hand, you have no idea what hazards might be lurking in the water—or even what the temperature of the water is going to be.
But if you’re up for an adventure and want to try something new, open-water swimming can be incredible!
3. Excel your swimming technique
Whether you’re just starting out or are an old pro, these tips will help keep you safe and comfortable while out in the ocean or lake. There are a few things that you can do to improve your swimming technique.
- Practice breathing rhythmically and taking deep breaths. This will help you to stay calm and relaxed in the water, which will make it easier for you to swim faster.
- Work on your kick technique by kicking your legs more strongly and rhythmically than usual. This will help build up muscle strength in your legs and give you more power when you need it most.
- If possible, find a pool with no-touch walls so that you can practice swimming without being interrupted by people walking by or splashing around near you.
4. Warm yourself up
One of the most important things to get right before hitting the water is to warm up your muscles. The best way to do this is by doing some light exercise in a pool or bathtub, and then gradually increasing your intensity until you feel ready for the open water.
To warm up for open water swimming, you can do the same thing you’d do for any other kind of exercise—you can stretch, jog, or walk around in a circle.
You can also just wade into the water and start swimming. But if your body feels cold or stiff, it’s usually best to just stand in the water and get used to being there before starting your swim.
5. Learn to swim with others
If you’re new to open-water swimming, it’s a good idea to learn from someone who knows what they’re doing. Watch other swimmers, or have a friend or family member who’s done it show you the ropes. The more time you spend in open water before your first race, the less likely it is that you’ll panic when things get hairy.
First, make sure you can swim before trying it out in open water—you don’t want to be in over your head!
Second, get comfortable with being around other people who are also swimming. You won’t always be alone out on the water, and that’s okay!
6. Be visible to others
It’s important to stay safe in open water and make sure you can be seen by other swimmers, boats, and other watercraft.
You should wear a life jacket and/or swimsuit with reflective tape on it. When you’re swimming in daylight or near lights, your visibility will be enhanced by wearing a reflective swim cap.
You can also add reflective tape to your cap, back, or legs to make yourself even more visible in low-light conditions.
7. Don’t panic
If you’re swimming in open water, it’s important to remember that panicking is the worst thing you can do.
It’s easy to panic when you’re in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by nothing but water and sky (and maybe a few sharks). But if you panic, your heart rate goes up and you use up more oxygen than necessary, which means that you’ll get tired faster and have to breathe more often. Not good!
So instead of freaking out, try visualizing yourself as a great swimmer. Think about how awesome it would be if you could just swim forever and never have to come up for air.
Visualize yourself doing laps around the pool, swimming across oceans like a pro, or just floating peacefully on your back while dolphins frolic around you… whatever helps you feel positive about being in the water!
So whether you’re a triathlete, a seasoned open-water swimmer, or just a recreational swimmer looking to take your training to the next level, this guide should provide you with all the information you need to improve your open-water swimming techniques and get the most out of your swimming sessions.