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5 tips on how to get over your fear of open water

The fear of the unknown and uncertainty of open water can create anxiety in beginner swimmers. Beginner triathletes have to overcome this before race day to have a successful swim. Swimming pools are nothing like a lake, but they are still beneficial for training. What you learn in the pool can be easily transferred to open waters, just without the clear water and straight black line. You can overcome your fear of open water if you have a successful strategy and the willingness to execute it. Prepare for the swim with these five tips to get over your fear of open water.

It’s important to swim in open water before race day. Credit – Tom Marek.

Pro tip: wetsuits can help with your buoyancy in the water. If you invest in one, take proper care of it so you get the most out of it.

  1. Practice makes perfect

The best swimming abilities in the world won’t mean a thing if you can’t remain calm when things don’t go as planned. Staying relaxed and maintaining your form is critical during a triathlon. You might pass people. People might pass you. You could veer off course. You might get accidentally kicked or hit by another swimmer’s stroke. While none of this is intentional, it can still throw you out of rhythm.

Find an open body of water before race day. Practice so you understand what it feels like to not have the benefits of a pool. Focus on maintaining your form and breathing evenly. Know what it feels like for the waves to splash over you. Be specific in your open-water practice and familiarize yourself with what the pool can’t provide. Practice sighting and become familiar with these tips so you understand how it’ll keep you on course.

  1. Anticipate and plan ahead

Create “if-then” plans before you enter the water. Credit – Tom Marek.

Be proactive and create “if-then” plans for your swim. If you begin to feel nervous, then resort to slower strokes and calm your breathing. If you feel lost, adjust your stroke and focus on sighting. This will help you get back on track. Implement anxiety-reducing tactics that can help you during the swim. For example, some swimmers count their strokes. This allows them to focus on a short-term goal, regain control of their breathing, and focus on what they can control.

Have a physical checklist of items you’ll need. Plan ahead and make sure you have what you need for all practice swims and race day. It’s important to make sure everything fits, like your swim goggles. Make sure you have a backup pair just in case! Create a mental checklist of things to focus on and you’ll have a productive fallback when things turn bad. If you fail to prepare, you prepare to fail.

  1. Go with the flow

Most swimmers exhaust themselves fighting waves or veering way off course. Learn how to not swallow water and maintain sighting when you swim in open waters. Create a plan that accounts for the circumstances around you, but be prepared to adjust. Focus on what you can control, like your breathing and your sighting. Alternate between sighting, stroke speed, and relaxing when the opportunity presents itself. There is a time and place for everything. Don’t forget, humor helps. These triathlons memes can give you a good laugh and remind you of what you’re capable of accomplishing.

  1. Talk to other triathletes

Talk to veteran triathletes. Their information will be valuable. Credit – Tom Marek.

Veteran triathletes can help you improve your technique, reduce any anxiety, and catch any and all errors you might make during an open-water swim. Another pair of eyes can spot things you can’t. They can also share stories, advise on certain practice techniques, and give race-day tips. You can learn more from others. This is more of the mental component to swimming, but any helpful information is beneficial. Read about William’s first-ever triathlon. High Five Events’ Communication Manager breaks down his race-day experience, including the good and bad of the swim. 

  1. Practice one skill at a time

Fall back on your training. Next thing you know you’ll be done. Credit – Tom Marek

Practice and skill-development are reliable confidence boosters. Isolate your swimming skills such as sighting, stroke, breathing, and form. Practice them individually to zero-in on becoming better at them. All of these can be worked on in the pool, where you might feel more comfortable. Those skills can then be transferred to your practice swims in open water. Then practice putting them all together in action holistically. The simple act of refining each of your skills and working on them can produce positive results and boost your confidence. Pro tip: incorporate these 7 tips when you begin training. They’ll help with your journey, including overcoming your fear of open water.

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. A beginner triathlete has to face the open water someday. A great plan, the right amount of practice, and the patience to tolerate fear and failure until you succeed are all you need to become a successful swimmer. Keep in mind, getting over your fear of open water will not happen overnight. It’ll take several swims and consistency. With hard work and dedication, you’ll overcome your fear of open water in no time!