Open Water Swim Tips

I have my first triathlon of the season this weekend, which means my first real open water swim race of the weekend.  The swim is probably the part of the event in which I am the strongest and yet it is the part that I dread the most.  Open water swimming isn’t the same as pool swimming, and it can be a bit scary, but I’ve learned a lot of great tips along the way.

First, get in the water.

Even if Ryan Gosling isn’t in there waiting for you, get in the water.  Get in, bob around a bit.  Get used to the water.  It’s probably colder than the air, and it’s important that you get used to it.

PUT YOUR FACE IN THE WATER!  Apparently, when cold water hits your face, your body’s natural reaction is to pull your blood to your torso to keep your core warm (and keep you alive).  Once your instincts realize that you’re not dying, the blood will go back to where you need it, but you need to get your body used to it.

Also, some people have trouble with their lungs tightening up at that first blast of cold water.  It’s like getting into a very cold pool.  It’s awful at first, but then it’s fine.  So get in and get used to the water.  Don’t stand on the sidelines and wait.  Yes, it sucks, but you have to get in eventually.

What if it’s a land start and there’s no chance to get in and warm up?  Well, I’ve only had this happen once, and it was during a pretty warm swim, but what I did was dump really cold water over my head right before the race.  I probably looked like an idiot.  I do not care.  I was already wearing spandex in public.  You can’t go much further downhill from that.

Another fun tip – in cold water, wear earplugs.  Apparently, cold water in your ears can cause vertigo in some people.  Better safe than sorry, right?  Also keeps lake out of your ears, which for some people is a huge perk.

Finally, if you’re going to be in a wetsuit, practice in it first.  Preferably in an outdoor pool or body of water.  You can try it in an indoor pool, but it will be warm and you run the risk of overheating.  Still, one lap in an indoor pool is better than not trying it at all.

So that’s what I’ve learned so far.  What are your open water swim tips and tricks.


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