It’s that time of year when many of us venture out to a race with Open Water swimming that has water temps below 65 degrees. Want to be successful in those swims? I bet any or all of these tips might be useful to you and improve your odds of a successful swim!
If you haven’t worn a wetsuit, get one (rent or buy) and try it out in the water before the race. If you have a wetsuit but it's very old, get a new one. Even the entry level suits today are better than the top of the line suits of four years ago. We believe the best wetsuits on the planet are blueseventy. They are typically the best fitting as the company has years and years of history in designing the fastest wetsuits in the world. They also JUST focus on the swim. If you’re a Team MPI Athlete, you get an exceptional discount as well (check with your Coach).
Once you start going below 65 degrees for most people and below 60 degrees for all of us, you need to focus on additional gear to keep you warm. We recommend using not one, but TWO swim caps or purchasing a neoprene cap. Additionally, buy some ear plugs (silicon ones from your local drug store work fine) to keep that cold water away from your inner ear. Finally, for long swims in very cold water, look at purchasing gloves or booties (see blueseventy accessories). Be sure to check the race rules for what is allowed at what temperatures, if at all.
How to Swim
If at all possible before the race, get in the water for a short warmup. Yes, get in. Before you get in, splash water on your face and get some inside your wetsuit in the chest area (this will quickly warm up due to your body heat). If you do get a chance to warm up, have a throw-away towel or two to wrap your head and hands in afterwards while you wait for race start. Believe me, doing a warm up will make your swim 100% better! Once the gun goes off, swim for the first few minutes at a SLOWER pace than normal. This will allow for your body to adapt to the temperature better without running out of breadth and hyperventilating. Lastly, if able, keep your mouth closed under water and exhale through your nose.
Obviously the more you practice Open Water before your event, the better. However, if you can’t get a lot of practice in the Open Water, get it IN THE POOL with your wetsuit on. Put on the wetsuit before you get in (it’s almost impossible to get on while you’re wet) and swim your session as planned. Once you get to hot (and everyone will get hot in the pool), simply take off your wetsuit and finish your set. Remember to rinse your wetsuit off with fresh water after you're done. Why do this? Most athletes have a different body position in the water with a wetsuit on. This causes athletes to use different muscles or swim slightly different than they normally do which in turn causes new muscle soreness or cramping. Practicing swimming with your wetsuit on half a dozen times before your event will increase the odds that you will have a better swim.