If you like the idea of splashing about in a tropical lagoon, swimming in a lake or taking on your first triathlon but have a fear of open water that stops you realising your ambitions, it’s time to take action! With a little planning and preparation, you can find the courage to overcome those fears and enjoy an open water swim. Here’s a few tips:
Choose Your Waters
Everyone has their own idea of what the perfect open water swim entails. Overcoming the fear and empowering yourself to take the plunge is easier if you can find a location that inspires you to be brave or one that offers the support and facilities you need to feel safe. You can find a complete list of safe, outdoor swimming spots and information about the amenities available, online at the Outdoor Swimming Society.
Prepare Yourself Mentally
Addressing your fears and phobias can often trigger overwhelming anxieties that in this case can leave you stuck on dry land. Prepare yourself mentally by doing a little research. Find out everything you can about your swim location or visit it and speak to the coaches or other swimmers there about their experiences.
Prepare Yourself Physically
It’s easier to develop the belief that you can complete an open water swim if you’re physically prepared for it. Spend time at the pool working on your strokes but also practice treading water and sighting. Lane markers and clear water make swimming in straight lines at the pool straightforward, but in open water, tides, currents and reduced visibility make it more challenging. Practice swimming to a point in the middle of the pool, treading water and swimming back.
Get the Right Swimwear
Open water swims present unique challenges. Tides, currents, weather conditions and water temperatures all need to be considered. Thankfully, most of these challenges can be managed with the right swimwear. If you’re swimming in British waters, you will need the following essential items:
- Goggles It’s vital to keep your vision clear. Our most advanced Aquaflex goggles are rated by 220 Triathlon magazine because they reduce glare and reflected light, offer a contoured fit to prevent leaks and improve visibility in any conditions.
- Swimming hat A brightly coloured, silicone swim cap will help you maintain your body heat, prevent hair from obscuring your vision and help other swimmers or spectators spot you from the shore.
- Wetsuit In the winter, sea temperatures generally range from 6-10˚C and increase in the summer months to around 15-20˚C. This may sound inviting but water can sap heat from the body quickly. Staying warm is one of the biggest challenges facing open water swimmers and this makes getting a quality, men’s or women’s wetsuit that fits well, essential.
Your wetsuit should be snug and that’s why we’ve developed a range of men’s and women’s wetsuits that are tailored to different body shapes. Each one is designed to maintain warmth, improve buoyancy and support full movement with flexible panels in the underarm, chest and lower leg. Further advice on selecting the right size wetsuit for you can be found in our online Fitting Guide.
Plan for Safety
Open waters and the way your body responds to them can be, at times, unpredictable, so even if you’re heading to a safe, shallow spot, always make a safety plan.
- Minimise anxiety by going on a clear, dry day
- Ask a friend to spot you from the shore
- Tell someone where you will be swimming
- Inform any lifeguards or coaches that you’re a newbie
- Take warm, dry clothes, a flask of sweet tea and some food to help you recover
We support every attempt to enjoy swimming in any waters - you can do this! You can find other swimming tips and advice in our Life in the Fun Lane blog, and order goggles, caps, wetsuits and much more from the Zoggs online store.