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Tips for beginners at open-water swimming.

As swimming pools and gyms are still closed, a lot of new triathletes and venturing out to the open water for the first time. So, today I have put together some of my top-tips for open water beginners who are adapting to a new style of swimming.

Take a friend

It is still possible to social distance when swimming in the open water. It’s always good to have encouragement in the colder water and support can make you feel a lot safer. If your friend has been open-water swimming before, then it is likely they can help you get used to the obvious differences to swimming in a pool – for example, you can’t see where you’re going when your face is in the water. Most importantly for me – having a friend there keeps your mind off the colder water.

Get in slowly

Our bodies need time to adjust to the water. If you jump into cold water, then it's likely to shock your body. Ensure you get in slowly and give your body time to adjust - splash water over your face and let a little bit of water into your wetsuit at a time. If you don't have a wetsuit then it’s even more important to get in slowly.

Buy awetsuit

Having the correct suit is a lot more important than you may first think, an open-water wetsuit if different to a surf wetsuit. The open-water is more buoyant and made out of stretchy neoprene, which means there is flexibility around the shoulders and allow you to be more buoyant. An open-water wetsuit no only makes you float better, but it will also keep you warmer for longer. It’s also possible to buy a suit that helps lift your legs to the top of the water, so you don't have to use them, and then it puts you in the correct body position.

Know your Swim Course

When new to open water make sure you know where your swimming. I would recommend walking round the Lake if you can before getting in. This will help one swimming because you can have a rough idea where you are from landmarks if you can't see the tiny boys you are meant to be swing around use the landmarks to help guide your way round the course.

Sight frequently

Now you’re in the water, my next tip is about changing your swimming technique. Unlike a swimming pool, you won’t be able to see where you’re going if your head is under the water, so to help you swim in a straight line and use less energy you need to find a fixed object close to the buoy. To ensure you’re swimming straight, lift your head for sight every four to six strokes (seven if you breathe of both sides).

Practice breathing to both sides

If you’re new to open-water swimming, make sure you practice breathing on both sides, so if it is wavy or choppy on the left, you can breathe to the right to make sure you are exhaling under the water before you turn your head to breathe.

Drafting – Swimming close

My final tip (when social distancing is over), is to get used to swimming close to other swimmers. For example, swimming close to another swimmer’s feet so you get a draft, this makes it easier to swim faster in races.At the start of a race you will be swimming side-by-side to other athletes, this is very intense, and you’ll often knock arms or shoulders with other competitors. Practicing this will make you more prepared for the racing environment. Another technique is swimming next to someone’s hip, this is another drafting technique but will also slow the swimmer in front down, so consider that.

I hope these tips help.

Megan McDonald

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