Swimming in open water 

In open water it’s perfectly reasonable, particularly for the first few times that you get in, that you are nervous.

This will have many effects on your swimming and how you feel about swimming in the open water. 

When you swim in the swimming pool, you can see the bottom and you can mostly see what’s coming in front of you.

When you get into the lake or the river or the sea the water’s much more opaque. 

You can’t touch the bottom quite often, and that can freak you out quite a bit.

The water temperature will be a lot colder, particularly in Great Britain or in the Northern Hemisphere at this time of year than you are used to when you are swimming in a swimming pool.

This causes your body to go into a bit of a shock, and you’ll find yourself breathing really rapidly and out of control.

Almost like you’re having a panic attack, and in some cases actually have a panic attack. 

This is because of the temperature and also because all your subconscious is telling you that this is weird and I can’t handle it.

The way to combat this is to do a couple of things

Firstly, flush your wetsuit. 

As you’re getting into the water, pull the collar out and let the cold water get trapped between you and your wetsuit. 

This will be cold initially, but that water will warm up and help keep you warmer in the water.

Try to lower your head in the water and breathe out even if you’re not necessarily in the swimming position. 

You just sat down or bent over putting your face in the water and breathing out and constantly breathing out nice and slowly.

Controlling your breathing will help get your face and your nervous system ready for the cold water shock of being in there.

You will find then that when it’s time to push off or to set off a swim and be in a race or even in open water training, that you’ll feel much more relaxed and you’re able to then swim. 

The other difficulties some people face, is because the wetsuit is very different from swimming in just a swimming outfit, you’ll find that your movement’s restricted.

This can cause you to panic a little bit.

It becomes harder to swim because the wetsuit is making you push more power to, or move your arms more forcefully to try and get you through the water.

Again, this is quite normal.

Over time, you’ll get used to this or better still, if you’ve yet to buy a wetsuit, try and get one with as thin a neoprene as you possibly can around your shoulders and the top neck part of your body. 

One, two millimetres is what we’re looking for there.

It doesn’t provide any warmth, but the flexibility that you’ll get from your shoulders from such a thin neoprene will mean that you’ll be more able to swim like you do in the pool, and you’re less likely to freak out. 

If you’re in open water and you have a bit of a freak out, don’t worry.

Implement all those tips and you’ll be fine.

Picture of Animis Coaching Team

Animis Coaching Team

We're Coaches Jacqui and Oliver Saxon, the Animis Coaching Team.

We are a mom and son coaching team who have changed our lives through the sport of triathlon. We aim to break down the mysteries of triathlon training and show you, the avid traithlete, how simple and flexible it can be so triathlon training really does become part of your lifestyle and not just a hobby.