OPEN WATER SWIMMING IS TAKING YOUR AQUATIC SKILLS OUTSIDE THE CONFINES OF THE TILED FLOORS AND WALLS OF THE SWIMMING POOL TO LAKES, OCEANS, BEACHES AND RIVERS. The freedom, beauty and challenge
that you experience from swimming in these bodies of water can be exhilarating but dangerous if you are not properly prepared to handle the different scenarios you will encounter as you swim open water. Here are some of the challenges that you will encounter:
HAVE THE PROPER STROKE TECHNIQUE AND COMPLETE OPEN WATER SWIM SKILLS. A correct, efficient and strong stroke technique together with a complete stockpile of open water swim skills( sighting, drafting, maneuvering, breath timing, stroke gliding, swimming through strong waves, etc) are crucial to conquering and enjoying your first and succeeding swims. The proper stroke technique will allow you to efficiently(lesser strokes) move through the water as you take advantage of a longer distance per stroke ratio. A strong swimmer will be able to power through strong waves, currents(rough water) and swim out of whirlpools which are common causes of triathletes not meeting the cutoff times and not allowed to continue with the race.
Finding the right swim teacher for beginners with zero knowledge or a stroke mechanic for those who already know how to swim is very important because your safety will depend on the expertise of these professionals. Not all swim teachers or even coaches can effectively prepare you for open water swimming. A lot of education goes into teaching open water swimming so take into serious consideration the reputation and track record more than the credentials of these professionals. An effective educator must be able to explain to you clearly how the bio-mechanics of the stroke work and how these are used in open water swimming.
PROGRESSING FROM SWIMMING POOL TO OPEN WATER. Swimming straight in a pool is easy because you have underwater floor markers to guide you. In open water it’s either swimming over the beautiful coral reefs with colorful underwater life or pitch black deep water that can get you disoriented and hyperventilating.
The increased buoyancy, distance(continuous swimming) and less pulling resistance will definitely make you feel awkward and mess up your stroke technique.. Make sure you incorporate Sight-breathing in your swim sets in the pool. Sight-breathing will slow you down and make you fatigue faster because of the lowering of the hips as you raise your head to sight-breathe. One lap or one straightaway in the pool may range from 25 – 50 meters. The time for you to cover this distance may range from 20 secs. – 2 minutes. One straightaway in open water may be from 400 meters to as long 2 kilometers. So get used to swimming non-stop for 8 minutes to a minimum of 1 hour in your pool swims. The question of “Are we there yet?” regularly run through your mind if you’re not used to swimming continuously for this long. It will help if you have a playlist of songs that has the same beat as your stroke rate so that it keeps you engaged and entertained. Some swimmers prefer to wear Trisuits or even wetsuits for cold water swims. Make sure you also practice/train with these in your pool workouts. Swimming with these types of suits will make you work harder because the suit restricts your movements most especially your arm strokes.
WASHING MACHINE EFFECT SWIMMING. Swimming close to each other and literally rubbing not just elbows with swimmers around you can also make you hyperventilate and fatigue much faster. This experience will also force your stroke technique to be less effective and useless.
This is because we are used to having our own space or lane during our pool training. Getting kicked in the face, getting your goggles dislodged or loosing your way because other swimmers are pushing you. Swimming off course even with an effective sight-breathing skill will always happen most especially if you need to avoid slower swimmers, rounding buoys or even if you unfortunately follow a group who’s also swimming off course. Learning how to properly swim or crossover another swimmer during a race without unduly impeding the progress of the other swimmer observes courtesy and safety for both of you. You would not want somebody to just swim over you and push you underwater. You have to learn how to use you hands like “rudders” upon entry. This will help you steer from left to right in seconds in order to avoid hitting somebody or get out of the way of somebody hitting you.
These are just some very important tips that you can do and practice. Please make sure you find time to practice these in open water at least weeks before you race. So that you will have enough time to make adjustments in your training program. The trip will surely be worth it and safe if you go as a group rather swimming alone.