Many people start their swimming training in the pool; that is why they often feel strange and scared when they first swim in open water. The experience is so different that they may feel unable to breathe or have lots of scary thoughts running through their minds. In fact, it is normal: think about it like how you drive the bike or a car for the first time. It is hard to expect a perfect experience at first but you can make it safe and more enjoyable with the following tips:
Stay calm and relaxed
You can be prepared whatever you want but you still you freak out when feeling/seeing something strange. It may turn out to be some objects floating aimlessly, not a shark or some zombie. Having anxiety or panic attack can ruin your day.
The best way for you to get through you first swimming experience in open water and enjoy it is to be calm. Of course, it is not easy at first but you should try to take it easy. Ask yourself of you feel relaxed and adjust your breathing or swimming pace if the answer is no. Use the little voice in your head to shake off the negative thoughts and tell yourself that everything is going to be alright. Do not let your mind wander far and focus on what you are doing and where you are now.
Swimming in open water is different from in a pool; you can encounter many unexpected situations, no matter how many scenarios you plan for. Still, you best bet is to be well-prepared. Also, you should mentally prepare yourself to be flexible and quickly responsive.
To make sure your first open water swimming experience is pleasant and memorable, you should do some research about the swimming location. Is that location safe? How do the currents and tides at that place seem like?
In case the water level very deep and you are not very confident in your swimming, check if there are lifeguards around, do not go swimming alone and avoid swimming far from the shore. And if you swim in cold water conditions, you should have proper practice in advance.
Pay attention to the weather too: it is advised postpone your first try when it rain or is very windy.
Stay hydrated and eat enough nutrition
Providing enough water and nutrition for your body is important for any type of sport, not just swimming. It is hard to recommend an exact timetable for everyone but the very least think you can do is drink plenty of water before and after swimming. Many people do not eat large meals close to the swim because they want to have enough time for properly digesting their food.
Be open-minded about swimming in crowded conditions
You probably prefer to swim in an open space with very few people. The thought of having people swim near you (especially in a race) and bump into you may make you feel uncomfortable or even feel frustrated. But it is not always possible to avoid the crowd; besides, if you do not happen to touch someone else’s toes or elbow, you may encounter fish, insect and objects in the water also. So be relaxed and think about it in a more positive way: should something happen to you, there are people around to help. Once you embrace that idea, you will be more at ease.
Bring the right gear with you
There is hardly any difference in the gear you use at the swimming pool and in open water. Basically, you still need wetsuit, goggles and sunscreen to avoid being burnt under the sun. Say, if your swimming suit is too tight, you will feel uncomfortable under water. And what if you have foggy goggles? So, always make sure you have the right gear before the swim.
Practice proper breathing
What will you do when you get panicked? People tend to try taking in large gasps of air but that simply results in hyperventilation, making them feel dizzy and tired even more. Instead, you should learn to regulate your breathing: get a good gasp of air first, and then steadily blow bubble in the water with your head down. It helps you stayed focus and forget your panic.
With you face in the water, you need to swim with a closed mouth and open only to exhale before you inhale air.
Do some warm-up
Even if the thought of getting into the water makes you feel really excited, you still need do warm up a little bit so that you can be physically and mentally for the swim. Just 5-10 minutes of warm-up can even help you lower the risk of injuries. A light job can also be done instead.
Once again, we would like to stress that you should learn to take it easy. Do not be too disappointed if the experience is not amazing at first. You will feel more comfortable in open water over time.