Open Water Swimming Tips
Updated: Jan 14
Memorial Day is a day to remember those that have sacrificed their lives for our country. In most regions, Memorial Day is also associated with the start of open water and outdoor swimming season.
10 Rules for Open Water Swimming
Since safety should be your number one concern when out in open water we will start there!
Always swim with someone else or have someone on a paddleboard, kayak or small boat.
Wear a bright swim cap and inflatable buoy to be easily seen.
Get familiar with the swimming area in advance. This also includes ensuring the water quality is suitable for swimming.
Stay oriented to where you are and where you got in. Shorter out-and-backs may be better than one long out-and-back.
Wear a wetsuit if you have any anxiety in the water to help keep you buoyant.
Stay clear of any large boats and sight frequently when there are other boats on the water.
Swim in larger groups or take classes on ocean swimming if attempting to swim in the ocean. Ocean swimming adds many new dimensions that can increase danger.
Know the water temperature and prepare accordingly. Vaseline on feet can help in really cold water as well as a neoprene cap. A cold dome could disorient you. (See Coach Mark's cold water swimming advice from last week.)
Wear Body Glide (or other anti-chafe) on neck and under arm pits to prevent chaffing of wetsuit. Chaffing can occur in salt water without wetsuit due to salt and sand in the water.
Wash off or take a shower right after swimming to avoid swimmer's itch and to rinse off any bacteria you may have been exposed to in the water.
Tips for Open Water Swimming
Swimming in open water is much different than the pool where there are lane lines to use for orientation. In open water you must sight to keep a straight line and look out for obstacles in the water but there can be a tendency to spot too often and swim with a higher head position than in the pool. Try to sight only as often as you need to be safe and keep your line. Immediately after sighting you should get your head back in alignment and think about a slight chin tuck to ensure your neck is not in extension.
Remember that you can still do drills in open water as well as sprint intervals. Using stroke count such as 50 strokes hard /25 strokes easy can be a good way to do speed sets. Also, open water starts are a great way to work on your explosiveness and start speed. By this I mean starting from a complete stop where you cannot touch the bottom and doing 10 to 20 strokes all-out multiple times. Be aware though these will wear you out quickly. Also working on in and outs to take seconds off of your time on swim exits and starts will greatly help on race day.
Hopefully these tips will help your open water swimming to be safer, more effective, and more enjoyable!