Swimming Open Water

Apps Physiotherapy provide triathlon based assessments and guidance, whether you're taking on Kona or are venturing into tri for the first time - there are swim, bike and run sessions to help you out. The latest blog is all about learning to swim in open water for the first time.
In June I had the awesome job of taking two new triathletes in training to our local lake for a spot of open water swimming.
We had a 6am meet and cycled the 5 or so miles down to the lake, after registering and paying it was time to suit up and get out there.
Tips and tricks along the way to try and help make getting into wet suits easier:

  •  Using gloves to avoid tearing any holes in your suit
  • Using a small plastic bag for your feet to slide the wet suit on more easily
  • Using plenty of glide along your neck to avoid rashes with contact with your suit

The lake is a 900m loop with 3-4 canoeists/paddle boarders to help if you get into trouble and so we start by easing into the water having a float to see the buoyancy of the suits and get used to the water temperature and that googles are fitted and comfortable.

I spend a little bit of time pointing out the buoys, that they should always be on your left as we swim anticlockwise around the lake, and explain how to sight the buoys as we swim. And we're off!

There is much gusto at the beginning and a great pace from each of us, but I quickly realise both girls are going off course and drifting over towards the river bank, a few shouts later and we try staying on each other's toes to keep things much easier - this works for all of about 50m and then the drifting off comes back.
The last tactic that seems to work is me swimming alongside the incorrect side to stop the swimmer from drifting and keeping them in more of a straight direction to the buoy line.

We re-group after a long stretch between buoys to get a breather and some breastroke to try and keep morale up!
The next stages are focused on sighting - the ability to see where you’re going and keep in a straight line to the next buoy.

 Tips for this include:

  • Aim to ''sight'' where you are going every 4-5 breaths,
    you can always do more
  • Don't stop when you sight - try and make the whole movement
    as one as you continue your swim.
  • Use the left and right view as you breathe to help keep you straight too,
    if you can see the riverbank is coming closer on one side pull slightly away from it
  • Trees and buildings can often help for sighting as well as buoys

Approximately 3/4 of the way round we're struggling with googles and trying to adjust them meant we needed a breather. We pull to the side and stand in shallow water to allow hats and googles to be re-organised and ready to push on for the final 300m or so.

Tips for goggles and hats:

  • Using 2 hats can be beneficial if it’s cold (start of season, sea swims etc.)
  • Placing goggles on under hats, or between 1 hat and the next can help prevent anyone grabbing your goggle straps
  • spit in your goggles and wipe saliva round before starting a race, this should help de-fog your googles
  • Always use anti-glare googles if able

Finally we're back to the entry point and a sigh of relief is felt if not heard!
Using Garmin data we can see that a 900m lap around the lake was actually 1.5K swim due to going off course and inefficient sighting.  Using some of the simple points listed above this should really help improve the next open swim session our beginners do!