It was warmer than I expected and exactly as hectic as I thought it may have been. I was both accidentally punched, climbed on top of and may have hit a couple of people as we tightly swam together. That was my first experience at open water swimming and I loved it. Sometimes there is no better way to try something out that diving straight in. That's exactly what I did with my first session. I headed down to the slipway where I met the rest of the tri club and a group of about 20 entered the water. When it was time to head for a swim it was a bit like a washing machine but it settled down as people found their own pace.
Last Monday I headed back for my second taste of open water. It was colder, it rained and was much choppier. We swam further than the week before and did some spotting practice. It was challenging but again I really enjoyed it. And, after initially thinking it was going to be freezing it turned out to not actually be too bad (the adrenaline and keeping moving always helps!).
At the end of our swim sessions there's also a bit of time for a short run. And last Monday U decided to give it a go. I normally do a bike to run brick session so it was nice to try out a swim to run. I ran out the water and rather swiftly pulled off my wet suit (I was rather impressed at my own speed doing this!). After nearly forgetting to take my goggles and swim cap off, I quickly dried my feet, laced up my trainers and headed off for a short 1 mile run, whilst simultaneously wrestling a jumper over my head. I have to say I felt pretty awesome finishing swimming and then going straight into it.
I wanted to share a couple of tips that I've picked up from my OW swim experiences so far:
Adapt your stroke with the wave. This tip probably applies more to a sea swim (but you could still get a bumpy lake surface if the wind is high). If it's choppier waves and you're heading against the tide - try shorter strokes rather than gliding with your hands. The gliding against the tide probably won't work and may you fatigue more as you using more energy to power through the waves. When the tide and pull are behind you that's when you can then use the gliding and cut through the water with less effort. This means you utilising strokes that can help you be more efficient for longer distances or a long time in the water.
Relax. Try to remain calm and relaxed, it can be really helpful when you're new to the water. Focus on your breathing and start out steady. If you need to come out of front crawl, go into breast stroke to take a breather. If you come into difficulties of need to have a break then roll onto your back - the wet suit will keep your buoyant whilst you rest and recover. Spot something in the distance and focus on that. This helps give your mind something to aim towards both mentally and a physically destination to reach for. If you're apprehensive about not being able to see the bottom - try and visualise a familiar setting. For example imagine the lines or tiles at the bottom of your swimming pool. You can also really focus on your technique and form. Doing this means your mind is more preoccupied on something that's important and can help detract from your fears.
Acclimatise to the water. This may seem a bit of an obvious tip but make sure your body, and especially your face, is ready for the cold (if the sea is warm where you live I very much envy you!). If you head straight into a swim without getting yourself ready it can shock the system and also upset your breathing due to the sudden cold. Walk up to your waist and splash your face multiple times with water. Make sure it runs down your neck and into your wet suit. Then pull your wet suit away at the neck and make get water all down the front. This can also be done so that the water runs down your back. Place your face in the water and blow bubbles. When you've done this a couple of times you should start to feel a bit more comfortable with the water temperature. If you're resting in between efforts stay in the water and aim to keep your shoulders beneath the surface. This helps maintain your temperature and stop you from getting colder.
I'll be following this post up with a second one in the next couple of weeks as I do more open water swims and also longer swims in the sea! But I'd also love to know if you have any tips. Let me know @afloralcrown.