An open water swim is so exhilarating and liberating that it can be hard to believe you might not have wanted to go in the first place.
Whether it’s fear of deep water, freezing temperatures or being far from land, open water swimming anxiety is fairly common, even for the most competent swimmers.
Here are some handy tips to overcome apprehension and take the plunge outdoors.
1.Plan your swim
It may seem obvious but careful planning can help you to leave your open water swimming anxiety at home.
Research your destination thoroughly. Make sure you know your entry and exit points. Check currents and tide tables if you’re going sea swimming.
Even better, speak to open water swimmers who know the spot. Ask about hazards and advice on what to expect.
Finally, don’t forget the weather conditions. Strong winds can strengthen waves and heavy rains can increase currents.
2. Wear the right gear
Water temperatures can vary widely in the UK and Ireland, from near freezing in winter to swimming pool temperatures in the summer.
Enter the water slowly so you don’t have a ‘cold shock’ that can take your breath away or cause panic.
If you’re wearing a wetsuit, make sure it’s the right fit. You can also wear a neoprene vest under your wetsuit and add gloves and booties too for really chilly waters.
Out of the water there’s a danger of hypothermia or ‘after drop’ when you start shivering as your core temperature lowers.
Dress your top half first or use a swim robe and you will quickly be enjoying that post-swim glow.
3. Always swim with a buddy
Our ethos at TekraSport is to swim with a buddy, always, no exceptions.
Swimming with others is an enjoyable social experience and also a great way to overcome open water anxiety.
Start off together, gradually increase distance and build confidence. As you approach bigger challenges, you will have the reassurance of someone at your side.
If your friends and family aren’t swimmers, see if they fancy a trip to the outdoors to keep an eye out for you from the water’s edge. Knowing you have an extra set of eyes on you can help to alleviate your anxiety.
4. Be safe. Be seen.
Open water swimming is thrilling but even amongst the comfortable moments you can encounter panic attacks, especially in deep water.
Swim with a safety device like TekraPod and you will have a reassuring lifeline wherever you go. TekraPod is designed to give you confidence in the water without the drag (of a tow float) that will slow you down. If you need help, quickly activate the inflatable buoy to have a rest, attract attention or wait for rescue.
Wear a brightly coloured swim hat or attach a swim light in darker conditions so you’re highly visible to warn boats or alert rescuers.
5. Use your inner voice
Facing that moment as you enter open water can be terrifying. Focus on calming your breathing, especially with cold water or a tight-fitting wetsuit.
The training advice from sports psychology coaches such as Justin Ross is to use your inner voice at the times you need it most.
Self-talk yourself through the actions you need to continue – reach, pull, breathe – or use motivational words to focus on being successful.
You could also distract yourself by stopping and taking a moment to enjoy being at one with nature and sharing the moment with your swim buddy – that is what is truly beautiful about being out on the open water.