Ever since I started watching motivational IronMan videos a few years ago, I have personally had an interest in diving into the sport of triathlons. I’ve been a runner for years now, but it wasn’t until recently that I actually started getting in the pool and swimming laps on a regular basis to pursue that discipline as well. Triathlons typically take place outdoors, so to prepare for participating in one of these events, I needed to gain insight from experts regarding swimming in the open water. I have been asking the swimming coaches on staff at The GYM for any and all advice on taking the plunge into the ocean, and fishing for tips on open-water swimming in general, and I want to share what I’ve learned with you.
First and foremost, open water swim training begins in the pool. Before you venture into outdoor water at all, it is recommended that you are able to swim at least 3-4 laps without stopping to rest in the pool. In addition, swimmers should practice the ability to change stroke depending on water conditions such as current and choppy seas. Knowing a different stroke to use can save you if the one you usually use isn’t getting you to safety.
Keep in mind that unlike in the pool, there will be no edge to launch off of in the open water, so treading water is a vital skill to practice before transitioning your training there. This specific skill could mean the difference in helping you survive in the dangerous and unpredictable open water scenario.
One very important piece of advice is don’t swim alone, bring someone with you. Whether joining you in the water or on-shore keeping an eye on you, it is always more safe with support, so use the buddy system every time, or don’t go!
Now let’s talk gear. When swimming indoors, goggles serve the purpose of saving your eyes from irritation due to the pool chemicals and allow you see through the clean and clear water. For the best visibility while swimming in an indoor pool, the swim coaches recommend wearing clear goggles. When open water swimming in the ocean, it is also a good idea to wear goggles to prevent irritation. On a sunny day, grab tinted goggles. They will act as sunglasses to shield your eyes from UV rays. Wearing goggles in open water won’t necessarily enable you to see due to the low visibility of our local waters, so be mindful of these factors before jumping in.
The brighter the swim cap, the more visible you will be to surfers, paddle boarders, and boaters. On the colder days, many swimmers will double up on swim caps. Wearing a wetsuit is a good idea as it not only will keep you warm, but will also add buoyancy.
Finally, you can take advantage of your body’s natural buoyancy by keeping your face in the water while you swim. Swimming with the use of good technique can make you a more effective swimmer while reducing the effort you expend. That’s especially important because many triathlon veterans will tell you the amount of energy you have left for the other two portions can make the difference between victory and defeat. Happy training!
Jessica Diaz is an ultra runner, loving wife & mother, owner of a Siberian Husky, RRCA Running Coach & Race Director, as well as Digital Manager at The GYM Cape Carteret Aquatic & Wellness and CEO of Diaz Media Marketing.