If you are one of those people who dream of joining the growing sport of triathlon, the thought of open water swimming may have already hit your mind. Swimming in open water is very different from swimming in the pool, and becoming comfortable in an uncomfortable situation is only half the battle. With hundreds of arms and legs moving aggressively during the iconic mass start, proper training is crucial.
Open Water versus Pool Swimming
Using the same strokes and techniques in both open water and pool swimming will not give you the same experience. There are many factors to consider when swimming in open water, such as the waves, currents, and temperature.
In addition, getting an accurate measurement of your swim distance will also be difficult in open water. Unless you have a GPS watch to do it for you, knowing your total swim distance in open water is not as easy as counting laps in the pool. It is easier, however, to maintain your pace in open water as strokes break when you turn at the wall in the pool.
Overcoming Your Fear
Open water anxiety is very common, even among the most experienced triathletes. It can either cause you to have a panic attack in the middle of the swim course, or give you images of sharks or the Loch Ness Monster. Whatever it is that comes to your mind when you think about open water swimming, you are not alone. The answer to conquering your fear lies in your training and mental preparation.
Here are some tips to note when preparing for an open water triathlon race:
You need to have an efficient breathing technique in order to survive in the open water. This is better practiced in the pool as the unpredictable conditions in the open water can hinder you from improving your technique. Open water anxiety can cause you to hold your breath. Doing so immediately pushes your panic button, making you feel out of control.
Manage your breathing by focusing on your technique and ignoring the things around you that make you feel uneasy. In case you start to panic, stop on the side, flip on your back, and calm down. Take a few deep breaths, gather yourself, and start swimming again.
Once you are out in the open water, you will have to swim without the line that you see running along the bottom of the pool. You need to learn to lift your head without allowing your lower body to drop and sight at certain points in order to remain on track. Look for various land marks, such as a tall tree or a house. It is also advisable to practice sighting the orange floaters around the swim course during your warm-up.
Drafting is swimming behind or to the side of another swimmer. Doing so will help you save more energy for the bike and run legs. This technique also requires ample practice as getting too close to your target swimmer could get you kicked or punched. When you draft, swim behind or beside someone of the same speed as you.
- Test the Waters
Always test the waters before the start of a race or when you are out for a swim training. Make sure that the water is safe to swim in, as well. If you are swimming alone, stay close to the shore for your safety.
Joining open water swim events could also give you a race-day feel of the swim leg. The Fuego Open Water Challenge in Nasugbu, for example, has three swim distances for participants to choose from: 1.5km, 2km, and 3km. If you want more challenge, you can join the Swim Our Islands Extreme Open Water Race in Bohol, where swimmers will start 2- and 4-kilometers away at sea and finish at the shore. These events will help you create a better strategy for your upcoming A-race, especially the dreaded mass start.
Once you have decided to become a triathlete, joining an open water triathlon event will automatically be part of your bucket list. With proper training and determination, you can easily conquer your open water anxiety and reach the finish line stronger than you have imagined.
By : Hanna Sanchez
For : SWIMBIKERUN.ph
Who’s Hanna? : The awesome Hanna Sanchez is the supah chick who swam 25km for the benefit of CARA Welfare Philippines last August 16, 2014.
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