As the temperatures gradually begin to rise and the sun starts to work its way through the clouds, the open water season is finally ready to get started again!
Whoever you are, a beginner on the hunt for new experiences? A convert looking to hone your skills? Or an adventurer in search of peace of mind? From my brief but intensely desired swimming experience in open water, some personal tips.
You do not have to love water but it is the water that has to fall in love with you!
#1. SWIMMING IN A POOL
Even though a chlorinated pool (think of chlorine as a magnificent fragrance!!) cannot unfortunately recreate the real conditions of open water, a pool does in fact have many advantages, particularly in terms of swimming technique. Whatever your goal, your swimming technique goes hand in hand with your success. As a result, improving your stroke and posture in the pool to prepare yourself for a dip in the sea will be an ultra-efficient way to ensure you get the most out of the experience once immersed in natural waters. And then, finally, nothing prevents us from recreating certain open water conditions artificially in a swimming pool :
- The absence of markers: Swimming with your eyes closed over short distances is a good way to improve your ability to swim straight without any markers for reference in open water. (avoid doing this exercise when the lanes are chock-a-block!)
- Breathing technique: open water breathing is somewhat different from pool breathing. However, you can practise in the pool so that you can get used the movements more easily, without wash and waves getting in your way.
- Long distances: To develop your endurance, think big and do as many lengths as you can without too much rest. Consider putting your drinks bottle and a small snack by the starting block to simulate open water feeding.
- High flotation: Seawater gives a high level of buoyancy when swimming. This flotation is often increased by wearing an open water swimming suit (do not listen to those who say no and if you feel comfortable use it in the pool !!). As this is rarely suitable in a swimming pool, using a pullbuoy can be a good way to recreate high buoyancy.
- Crowds: A busy pool can be handy to help familiarise you with the stumbling blocks of the starting block! So go ahead and choose the most crowded lanes during peak hours (and don’t forget your accident report…).
…. And, as if that was not enough already, salt water pools are best!
#2. GET INTO GOOD HABITS
Swimming in open water is one of the best ways to relax and escape the daily grind. But being tossed around by the waves while enjoying the beauty of natural waters is a risky discipline if you are ill-prepared. To be able to battle the elements safely, be sure to equip yourself with the right equipment, which includes:
- Open water suit if the water temperature is low
- Supplies in case of fatigue (water, food, etc.)
- High-visibility accessories (swim cap, open water buoy, etc.)
In any case, if a wave of fatigue hits you without warning and you do not have a buoy, remember to lie on your back. You will be able to float flat effortlessly, and calmly recover. If a pain or cramp strikes, rest in the same way, then set off again, with your back to the waves, using the afflicted limb as little as possible.
…… do not take the risk of facing open waters alone !!
#3. ADAPT TO THE CONDITIONS
It’s got to be said, the charm of open water swimming goes hand in hand with our insatiable thirst for braving the elements while being at one with nature. But to tackle the swell and currents, while retaining a smooth and regular stroke, we must adapt our swimming technique to the environment.
- Being able to get your head out of the water to stay on course towards the shore, buoys or any other landmark is essential.
- In open water, the “crawl” really lives up to its name. This is because the buoyancy of the water lets you rest more easily on the waves to move your body, while your legs serve as a rudder.
- If the waves make an appearance, remember to swim perpendicular to them, breathing on the side that allows you to see the wave coming. This will help you avoid any unfortunate surprises!
#4. FIND YOUR SWIMMING RHYTHM
Should I increase amplitude or frequency? Such is the dilemma of an open water swimmer. But in any case, to find your most comfortable swimming rhythm and constantly keep on making progress, you will have to improve the relationship between these two aspects.
- In open water, your arms rotate faster than in a swimming pool to avoid leaving your aerobic comfort zone and congesting your muscles too quickly. To achieve this, you should therefore favour frequency over amplitude of movement.
- Focusing only on amplitude will not be a safe bet in an environment such as natural waters. Your undulating surroundings can easily make you lose your bearings. As such, you would unfortunately be using up your energy for nothing.
As you can see, there is no such thing as a perfect swimming rhythm. Remember, however, that your ideal swimming rhythm is one that you can maintain, constantly and at a steady pace, over long periods of time!
#5. SWIMMING WITH OTHERS
Swimming is often seen as an individual sport, solitary even. However, with open water comes the opportunity to organise group trips that are all about sticking together and helping each other out.
- Group sessions are a good way to combine fun and improvement, taking on increasingly ambitious challenges with your aquatic partners!
- Whether your goals are distance or time, group sessions will allow you to constantly improve and progress, and that’s without mentioning the additional safety and security it brings.
Written by someone who can not be called a good swimmer but who demonstrates every day, with perseverance and tenacity to constantly improve!