- There’s no need to invest in an expensive wetsuit straight away – Wetsuits are essential for open water swimming in the UK, even in the summer but there are many places you can buy or hire one. With so many wetsuit brands available which one do you go for? Firstly different brands suit different people and much of it is how comfortable you feel, the best place to try a wetsuit out is in open water as a shop environment can make you hot and uncomfortable, look for a retailer or brand with access to open water and try a few out before you commit. If it’s your first season there is no need to go mad and spend your cash on an expensive suit as you could borrow, buy second hand or last seasons model or consider hiring one for the season which starts from approx £50 and often has an option to purchase at the end of the season. Search online for good deals on hiring.
- Goggles and swim hats are a must – You can use the same goggles for open water as you do for pool swimming and most venues insist that you wear a brightly coloured swim hat so you are visible in the water. It’s a good idea to wear a couple of hats to keep your head warmer.
- Join a reputable club or open water swimming venue – It is vital that you get some good quality coaching, advice and guidance when you are just starting out to ensure that you’re safe and confident in the water. Lifeguard classes near me Even the most experienced swimmers can be nervous about getting in to open water for the first time so don’t be afraid to ask questions or even speak to the coach beforehand. Many clubs run their own open water sessions but you would have to be a member before taking part, otherwise look for an open water venue with good facilities and access to coaching.
- In your first few sessions get familiar with open water swimming – Don’t pressure yourself with the quality of your swim or the distance, get used to wearing your wetsuit and how it feels and get comfortable with the water. Early in the season the water may still be around 12 – 13 degrees so you may not want to stay in long anyway, if at any point you feel that you are getting too cold, make sure you get out the water.
- With no lane to follow swimming in a straight line can be tricky – Sighting is one of the first skills you will need to master; with no lane or markings to follow you may find that you go off course as most people naturally pull towards one side or the other. Sighting literally means looking where you are going and involves you having to lift you head out of the water looking forwards to see where you are going. Rather than pick an object in the water such as the buoy you are aiming for which can be difficult to see pick a permanent object out of the water that you can view which could be tree or building to keep you on track. Of course this means looking up and will disrupt your stroke however the more experienced you get the less you need to sight it’s a balancing act and one that with practise and help you will come to master.
- Knowing where to position yourself in a race is also important – With some races having ‘waves’ of 300 people starting together keeping safe is essential and where you place yourself on the start line will help with this. Unless you are one of the strongest swimmers stay to the outside at the start and swim a direct line to the first turn, you could even position yourself 5 or 10 feet behind the line to allow the masses to rush off in front. The other thing you can do is wait 5-10 seconds after the starter has blown and then start swimming. The earlier you can get into your own rhythm and relax the better, don’t worry about loosing a few seconds you will make this time up over the course of the swim without any problem.
Once you have mastered the basics you can start to think about mass starts, drafting and turning which you will progress to in time.
Open water swimming is great fun and very enjoyable but as with all sports it comes with risks, make sure you keep safe by following correct procedures and listening to the pre-swim briefing and only ever swimming at a proper venue and never swim on your own.
Steve Lloyd is the owner of Absolute Tri Coaching. Whatever your goals or current ability we offer full support across all three disciplines ensuring that all your triathlon training needs are met and exceeded. From personal coaching to video swim analysis & professional bike fits we are a one stop shop for your future triathlon success.