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Open Water Swimming Tips

How To Avoid Open Water Swimming Catastrophes

The one thing you don’t want to think about during your open water swim is a worst-case scenario. But, being prepared for the worst means that you’ll be ready if a situation should arise. You keep a spare tire in your car and probably never even use it. So why not bring along your mental ‘spare tire’ the next time you swim in order to stay as safe and level headed in any challenging, open water circumstance?

Open Water Swim Event Begins in Barcelona
Open water swimming can be rewarding, as well as dangerous.

Slipped Goggles

While losing your goggles may not be the worst thing to happen to you while swimming, those that have ever had faulty goggles know how challenging it is to finish a race with cold, salty water in their eyes. To avoid this problem, always test out and inspect your goggles the day before the big swim. Look for wear and tear on the strap at the buckles and clips. Also, make sure that the gasket foam is intact and not starting to chip or wear. And if you just can’t get past the fear of faulty goggles, then try a few swims without goggles to prepare your eyes for the worst. By doing this, you’ll at least be able to keep your head in the game if your goggles ever do fail during a race.

Blisters & Chafing

Blisters during an open water swim are 100% avoidable. To completely avoid blisters, make certain that all your equipment fits properly and doesn’t budge while in or out of the water. This is especially true if you’re a triathlete. Always break in new runners and cycling shoes well before the day of the big race. Nothing is more bothersome than fresh or salt water getting in new blister wounds. Well, nothing except chafing! This annoying irritation occurs when two areas of your body rub together. While not life threatening, chafing can certainly sting enough to distract you from your swim. If you’re swimming without a wetsuit, Vaseline is a safe and affordable lubricant that works great at preventing chafing. If you don a wetsuit, be sure to use a non-greasy, wetsuit-friendly lubricant to leave your body feeling great and chafe-free.

Getting Off Track

This is something that open water racers might have to worry about. And while it might seem nearly impossible to do, especially in a large group of people, it is possible to get off track when you’re fully concentrating on swimming. This can be especially true if you’re an open water newbie or are in the back of the pack. Instead of constantly bringing your head up and out of the water, which can be both tiresome and neck wrecking, try coming up once every 20 strokes. Or try to follow the steady stream of bubbles in front of you. Look for the wake that fellow swimmers are making with their kick and let them guide your way. And if the person in front of you is off track, at least you two won’t be alone in the great unknown!

Leg Cramps

Leg cramps can strike at any time, but they do seem to have a way of popping up at the most inconvenient time… like smack in the middle of your open water swim. The best way to prevent cramping in the water is to properly stretch and hydrate. Although, taking these preemptive measures might not be enough to leave you cramp-free. If you’re struck with a paralyzing cramp in the middle of your swim, the first thing to do is to remain calm. Panicking can tense up your entire body and only makes things worse. As soon as the cramp appears, slow down or even come to a stop and tread water. If you’ve got a calf cramp, try rotating your ankle in circles to release the muscle bite. Take your time stretching out the cramp and make sure it’s fully gone before re-starting your swim.

Here’s to wishing you nothing but smooth open water swims and, at the very least, a level head if a worst-case scenario should arise!


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