Open-water swimming can be a daunting prospect for the novice, and those who are less experienced often dread the first leg of their event. Yet it isn’t always that bad. I recently came across an article that interviews open water swimming veteran John Flanagan about his own advice for those more rookie peers. Since open-water swimming includes plenty of variables that drastically differ from pool swimming, so he says the best way to get better is to experience it yourself. But before you jump into the water, here are some tips from Flanagan for open water swimming to help you avoid some of his past mistakes:
Practice sighting: Flanagan says the best way to sight during a race is to lift your head and look forward while you’re turning your head to breathe. Limit how high you lift your head because your hips will drop otherwise, so go for just below the goggle line, and then take your breath when you turn your head to the side.
Time when you sight: The more you look, the more tired you get, but the less you look, the less straight you may swim. That’s why you need to find that comfortable balance. If you’re in an ocean race, be sure to sight as you’re rising from a swell so you’ll be able to see.
Train in open water: If you have the chance to train in the open water, go for it. It’s not always the fastest swimmers that win these races, but rather the ones with the smartest race and the most experience.
Stay warm: Your body can shut down due to cold, so try avoiding that with everything you can: wetsuits, two caps and earplugs are some things that help you keep warm.
Goggles are vital: Find a pair of comfortable goggles that will allow you to see well. Don’t wait until race day to try out your pair of goggles, only to find out that you hate them.
Learn the course: You might not always have somebody with you during the race, so check the buoys before your big race. Look for landmarks like trees or houses that can help guide you in a straight line. You won’t always be able to sight off buoys in the water.
Have a fast start: Be warmed up and prepared to get out of the gate roaring. You want to limit as much contact as possible on the start, so get out fast, and you can settle into your pace afterwards.
Learn to breathe on both sides: When somebody is next to you, the best thing to do is breathe on the opposite side. If not, you might lose your goggles or get hit in the face, which is much worse than a hit to the back of the head.
Draft when you can: Drafting is a part of open water swimming that can both help and hurt you. You may be able to hang on to a faster group of swimmers, but you could also get stuck behind some and not know how slow you’re actually going. Be careful how you use it. It’s better for triathletes that are saving their legs for running or biking.
Eat and hydrate well: Take care of your body. Ironic as it is, it’s very easy to get dehydrated out in the open water, so drink plenty of fluids.