Open water swimming is a full body workout that everyone can get involved in at any age. A huge benefit of swimming in general is it being non-weight bearing. This takes the pressure off the joints, which allows a wider population to get involved. Open water swimming is also the exercise of choice for many athletes who have an injury that prevents them from doing their main sport. It really is a great way to maintain your fitness level while not putting any added pressure on the injury.
Things To Consider
When open water swimming in the UK the water is usually quite dark. This limits your vision significantly under the water, in most cases you are not even able to see your hands out in front of you when swimming. This is why the skill of ‘sighting’ is very important. This is when you take a breath but look forward straight ahead so you can see which direction to go. The classic technique is to alternate between either one or two breaths to the side, with one breath to the front. The more you practice this technique the more you will figure out which ratio is best for you. Practise in the pool first to correct the technique, getting used to lifting your head up to the front, this may feel very strange at first but will feel more natural after a few sessions and repetition.
Open Water Swimming Tips
- Wear clear lensed goggles to see your surroundings more clearly, this will maximise any vision you have in the water. However, when the sun is out a pair of tinted lenses will prevent the glare on the water from being too bright.
- Use landmarks in the distance to see where you are going. This could be trees, buildings, or floating buoys.
- Wear two swimming caps in cold water. This will prevent brain freeze and earache. Wear ear plugs also if you struggle with cold ears.
Did You Know?
Cold water immersion has been proven to increase the ‘Happy hormone’ dopamine!
To Wetsuit Or Not To Wetsuit
When starting out open water swimming, the advice would be to wear a wetsuit and a swimming cap. This will prevent your core body temperature from dropping too quickly. If you struggle with the cold you can also get neoprene swimming gloves and boots to keep the cold out.
If you do not want to wear a wetsuit or are transitioning from wetsuit to non-wetsuit, gradually acclimatising your body is the way to go. Entre the water slowly and pause every few inches as you entre the water more. This will give your body time to adjust and prevent you from hyperventilating from the cold-water shock, once you are in it gets easier. If you are feeling comfortable and confident you can then start to submerge your face and head for a second at a time. Then you’re ready to go…
Its time to get out if you start to experience any muscle cramping or teeth chattering. These are signs that your core body temperature has dropped and its time to get warm. The best way to get warm is to dry off quickly and get into some warm clothes, including a woody hat and fluffy socks! If you are still struggling to warm up get your heart rate up by running on the spot or doing star jumps.
Top Nutrition Tips
- Hydration: Warm and steamy swimming pool environments can elicit significant sweat loss without you even knowing. If your body loses more than 2% of its bodyweight due to sweating then it can negatively affect performance. Always have an easy to access drink of OTE Hydro tabs or OTE energy drink at the side of the pool that you can sip between sets. The electrolyte content of each of these drinks will help to promote rehydration better than just water alone.
- Early morning nutrition: Most swim sessions are done in the early mornings, either a length swim before work or a group/club session early morning. It can be more convenient not to eat than to get up really early and eat in enough time for your food to settle. However, training in a fasted state you are compromising the quality of the session. Carbohydrates are the dominant energy source used in swimming and our body only has a limited store, which needs topping up before we exercise. Consider having fluid-based meals before training to eliminate stomach discomfort, OTE energy drink, smoothies and fruit juices are great ways to top up your carbohydrate stores before training.
More Swimming Nutrition Advice
- Recovery is very important but if you find yourself training or competing twice in a day then it becomes critical. Try to eat as soon as possible after the first training session to allow your body to have maximal time to recover optimally between the two sessions. Consuming a combination of both carbohydrate and protein is the best recipe for recovery. Carbohydrates will replenish the glycogen stores you have just used up and the protein is to help with muscle recovery. An OTE recovery sachet is a convenient way to get all you need in one easy to consume drink.
- Staying healthy: When training hard this can compromise your immune system. The last thing any athlete wants is to lose precious days of training due to a niggling cold. Research has actually shown one of the best strategies to preserve your immune system is to consume carbohydrates during your training session, especially if it is over 90 minutes. Be organised and have an easy to reach OTE Energy drink or OTE energy drink at poolside.
– Open Water Swimming