After taking part in my first triathlon over the summer, this past weekend I also took part in my first aquathlon. It seemed like a better option as I struggled with the cycling at the last event.
It was so much fun! The pool swim was much easier than the loch swim and that gave me the inspiration to write up my tips for open water swimming. Not just for those who may want to do a triathlon, but for those who may want to try it out for fun.
If the idea scares you a little, rest assured, it is apparently the discipline that scares most new triathletes the most. And I get it, it’s also why I took so long to register for a triathlon. There is something about deep and dark waters that anxiety it seems.
First, you need to be able to swim well enough in pool. I started practising a few times a week and reading tips on how to improve my swimming stroke. To be fully comfortable in a control setting! Before pushing myself in the metaphorical and literal deep end.
If you want to try it or plan to do an open-water triathlon, read on for my tips for open water swimming (in Scotland*):
1. Get the appropriate kit: wetsuit, cap and goggles
This summer in Scotland was apparently the warmest in recorded history. This doesn’t mean the water was nice and warm obviously. While I think on one occasion it would have been fine to go in with only a swimsuit, a wetsuit was in my favour. It’s always a shock to walk in as the water slowly creeps into the suit, but the minute you start swimming the temperature isn’t much of a problem. It does wonders and it’s probably the best idea. Goggles and cap are for comfort.
2. Give yourself time and practice
In the weeks prior to the triathlon, my training partner and I went once a week to swim at a loch near Stirling. While I had paddled in lakes back in Canada, the first time I went into the loch to swim and couldn’t find my footing, I got out of breath really quickly. After the facts I realised it was panic. I’m so glad this wasn’t the day of the competition because I would have gone nowhere. The second time I was better and the third even better as well. Practice is the best way to become more comfortable. As proven by the fact that this was the most enjoyable part of the triathlon for me.
If you’re doing this just for fun, give yourself time to acclimatise to whatever is at the bottom or not having footing. The more you do it, the more fun it becomes.
If you’re practising for a race, visualisation is so important. The second time we did open water swimming and I was more comfortable, I tried to visualise the race and finish line (of the first discipline at least) and found it really helped me. I also started doing visualisation in the pool. It all really motivated me to push.
4. Be safe
The first two times I went swimming in open water were the toughest. The conditions were a bit choppy so I made good use of my safety buoy that I had bought. While I didn’t need it it was a nice comfort to have, like a safety blanket. I could grab onto it when I panicked or was tired. It’s also a great way for people to easily spot you. That’s because when you’re swimming in open water it’s possible some people may not see you. I’ve read it’s better to wear a colourful swimming cap or have a buoy with you so people can easily spot you, especially if there are other water sports around (i.e. boats).
Have you ever been open water swimming? Did you like it?xx