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May 20, 2019

10 Essential Tips for Safe and Enjoyable Open Water Swimming

Swimming is an excellent way to stay in shape, unwind, and take pleasure in the water. But, there are two distinct kinds of swimming- pool swimming and open water swimming. Though pool swimming or getting wet in a swimming pool is a trendy activity that can be appreciated throughout the year, open water swimming proposes an unparalleled experience that can’t be replicated in a regulated atmosphere.

How Open Water Swimming is different from Pool Swimming?

Open water swimming allows you to have a taste of nature, feel the sun on your skin, and test your abilities in different circumstances. No matter whether you are swimming in a river, lake, or ocean, open water swimming requires distinct abilities and knowledge as opposed to pool swimming.

In this article, we’ll discuss a beginner’s guide to ten vital tips for open water swimming. From appropriate swim gear to navigation techniques, we’ll cover everything you need to be acquainted with to get the best out of your open water swim.

Open Water Swimming Tips

Check the Weather and Water Conditions

Before embarking on an open water swim, it is crucial to inspect the weather and water conditions. This will provide you with a sense of what to expect and enable you to plan accordingly. It is imperative to avoid swimming in turbulent or stormy conditions as it can be treacherous.

Know Your Swimming Ability and Limitations

It is vital to recognize your swimming proficiency and limitations when navigating open water. Unlike a pool, no lane markers or lane lines guide you, and the water conditions can be unpredictable. It is one of the important tips for new open water swimmers.

Therefore, it is imperative to be sure about your swimming abilities and commence gradually. You should also practice swimming firstly as much as possible in a controlled environment. 

Choose a Safe and Designated Swimming Area

Selecting a secure and designated swimming area is paramount when swimming in open water. Look for areas monitored by lifeguards or have specified swim zones. Refrain from swimming in areas with strong currents or boat traffic.

Wear Appropriate Swim Gear

Benefits of a Swim Cap

When swimming in open water, wearing a swim cap is crucial. It aids in keeping your hair away from your face and reduces drag in the water. Additionally, it keeps you warm in colder water.

Types of Swim Caps

Several swim cap options are available, including silicone, latex, and neoprene. Silicone and latex caps are the most prevalent and cost-effective. Neoprene caps are denser and provide better insulation in colder water.

How to Choose the Right Swim Cap

When choosing  equipment like a swim cap, consider the water temperature and your personal preferences. A neoprene cap is recommended for swimming in colder water, whereas a silicone cap may be preferable if you prefer a tighter fit.

Apply Sunscreen and Wear Sunglasses

When swimming in open water, it is necessary to shield your skin and eyes from the sun’s harmful rays. Apply waterproof sunscreen before your swim and wear sunglasses to protect your eyes.

During Your Open Water Swim

After assessing the weather and water conditions, properly warming up, ensuring you have the appropriate gear, and also learning to swim without lane lines, it’s time to embark on your open water swim. Here are some guidelines to bear in mind during your swim:

Commence Slowly and Warm-Up Thoroughly

Prior to plunging headfirst into the open water, it’s vital to warm up appropriately. This not only helps prevent injuries but also enhances your swimming efficiency. Treading water is also a great way to warm-up or get started.

Start by swimming slowly for a few minutes, gradually increasing your pace for the front crawl. During your warm-up, focus on your breathing and stroke technique.

Practice Sighting and Navigation

Sighting involves raising your head out of the water to ensure you’re headed in the correct direction. In open water swimming, it’s crucial to practice sighting frequently, so you stay on course and swim straight. Treading water should also be considered when you start to feel tired.

Use markers like buoys or shore landmarks to guide your way, or reference the sun (wearing protective eyewear).

Be Aware of Your Surroundings

Open-water swimming can pose breathing and other risks if you’re not mindful of your surroundings. Keep the following in mind:

Stay Vigilant for Boats, Jet Skis, and Other Watercraft

In open water, you’ll likely encounter boats, jet skis, and other watercraft. Stay alert to your surroundings, and keep out of their path. Ensure you’re visible to them by wearing bright-colored swimwear or using a pull buoy with a flag. Marker buoy can also be used for added safety.

Beware of Wildlife and Aquatic Plants

Apart from watercraft, you might also encounter wildlife and aquatic plants. Stay on the lookout for jellyfish, stingrays, and other hazardous creatures. If you see any, swim in the opposite direction. Be cautious of aquatic plants like seaweed, which can entangle you and slow you down. Also, avoid diving into the murky water as it will increase the risk of being lost in the open waters.

Swim with a Partner or Group

According to the Open water conditions swimming can be solitary, and it’s always safer to swim with a partner or in a group. Not only will you have someone to converse with, but you’ll also be able to keep an eye on each other and lend assistance when necessary.

Listen to Your Body and Take Breaks as Required

Open water swimming can be physically taxing, so it’s essential to listen to your body and take breaks as required. If you feel exhausted or short of breath, halt swimming and tread water until you catch your breath. Take breaks if you feel dizzy or lightheaded. Also, practice bilateral breathing for better breath. 

Consider Wearing a Wetsuit

If the water is cold, consider wearing a wetsuit. Not only will it keep you warm, but it will also help you float and swim more efficiently. Ensure you choose a wetsuit that fits properly and is comfortable to wear.

After Your Swim

After your swim, it’s important to practice proper post-swim hygiene, review your swim, and celebrate your achievement. Here are some tips to keep in mind:

Practice Proper Post-Swim Hygiene

Rinse Off with Fresh Water

After swimming in open water, rinse off with fresh water as soon as possible. This will help remove any salt, sand, or other debris from your skin and hair.

Dry Off Thoroughly

After rinsing off, dry off thoroughly with a towel. Pay special attention to your feet, which can be prone to blisters and fungal infections.

Change into Dry Clothes

After drying off, change into dry clothes. This will not only help you feel more comfortable but also prevent you from getting sick.

Review Your Swim and Identify Areas for Improvement

Once you’re out of the water, take some time to reflect on your swim. Think about what went well and what you could improve on for your next open water swim. 

Did you have trouble sighting or swimming in a straight line? Did you struggle with breathing or maintaining your stroke? Identifying areas for improvement can help you focus your training and make progress toward your goals.

Celebrate Your Achievement and Have Fun!

Don’t forget to celebrate your achievement! Open water swimming is a challenging and rewarding sport, and completing a swim is an accomplishment to be proud of.

Whether you swam for fitness, competition, or just for fun, take some time to appreciate what you’ve accomplished and enjoy the experience.

Training for Open Water Swimming

Build Endurance with Distance Training

Distance training is an essential component of open water swim training. To prepare for longer swims, gradually increase the distance of your training swims over time. 

Start with shorter distances and work your way up to longer swims. For example, if your goal is to swim 1 mile in open water, start with shorter swims of 500-1000 meters and gradually increase the distance each week until you can comfortably swim a mile.

Incorporate Interval Training for Speed and Efficiency

Interval training is a great way to improve your speed and efficiency in the water. Incorporate intervals into your training by alternating between periods of high-intensity swimming and periods of rest or active recovery. 

For example, you might swim a set of 50-meter sprints followed by a set of 100-meter recovery swims. Interval training can also help simulate the race day experience, where you may need to sprint to get ahead of other swimmers or navigate choppy water.

Improve Technique with Drills and Video Analysis

Improving your technique is another key aspect of open water swim training. One way to do this is to incorporate drills into your training. Drills can help you work on specific aspects of your stroke, such as body position, catch, or kick. 

You can also use video analysis to identify areas for improvement and track your progress over time.

Open Water Swimming Safety

Learning CPR and First Aid

Open water swimming can be unpredictable, and accidents can happen. That’s why it’s important to know basic first aid and CPR. Consider taking a class or getting certified in CPR and first aid before you start open water swimming.

Tips for Dealing with Common Injuries and Illnesses

Despite taking all necessary precautions, injuries and illnesses can still occur while open water swimming. It’s important to know how to deal with common issues such as cramps, hypothermia, and jellyfish stings. Here are some tips for handling these situations:

Cramps: If you experience a muscle cramp, stop swimming immediately and try to stretch out the affected muscle. Massage the area gently and drink some water or an electrolyte drink. Once the cramp has subsided, you can slowly resume swimming.

Hypothermia: In cold water, your body can lose heat quickly and become hypothermic. Symptoms include shivering, confusion, and fatigue. If you suspect you or someone else is experiencing hypothermia, get out of the water immediately and try to warm up with blankets, dry clothing, and warm drinks.

Jellyfish stings: If you are stung by a jellyfish, rinse the affected area with vinegar to neutralize the sting. Avoid rubbing the area, as this can make the pain worse. If you have a severe reaction, seek medical attention.

Staying Calm and Focused in Emergency Situations

In the event of an emergency, it’s crucial to stay calm and focused. This can be difficult in a high-stress situation, but it’s important to remember that panic only makes things worse. 

If someone is in trouble due to getting in extremely cold water or something else, call for help immediately and do what you can to assist them while you wait for help to arrive. This might include throwing a flotation device, directing others to help, or performing CPR if you are trained to do so.

Final Words

Open water swimming provides a unique experience that can’t be replicated in a pool. It allows you to connect with nature, test your abilities, and enjoy the water. With the beginner’s guide and open water swimming tips for a safe and successful experience, you can be equipped with the essential tips for open water swimmers to help you get the most out it. 

Remember to check weather and water conditions, select safe and designated swimming areas, wear appropriate swim gear, and be aware of your surroundings. By following these tips and guidelines, you can enjoy your swim in open water and make the most out of this unforgettable experience.

Guest article.

The above may not coincide with the methodology and opinion of the SwimRight Academy Team.

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