8 Tips for Open Water Swimming Newbies

Goggle Selection

Goggles come in in all shapes and sizes. They also come in a variety of colors. When it comes to swimming outside, making the proper goggle selection will make a big difference.

Selection is determined based upon the weather conditions. For example, on a cloudy or rainy day, you may choose to wear goggles with clear, light blue or yellow lenses. These options will help brighten up your surroundings and make it easier to see. On the contrary, if it's a bright and sunny day or if you're swimming in the morning and the sun may rise while you're in the water, "mirrored" or "smoke" lenses are your best bet.

It is also wise to bring a second pair of goggles to each race you attend (or anytime you swim). This way you can have a clear AND mirrored set of goggles to choose from depending what the weather is like. Additionally, if the band snaps while you're warming up or if your neighbor in transition steps on your goggles you will have a back up pair.

More: 6 Worst-Case Scenarios for Open Water Swimmers and How to Avoid Them

Warm Up (10-15 minutes)

You warm up before all of your workouts (at least you should), so race day should be no different. It is a good idea to get in the water (if permitted) prior to your wave going off to warm up. Give yourself 10-15 minutes to get warm. Not only will this help get your blood flowing and prepare your body to swim; it will also give you a chance to become comfortable in the water at your leisure.

Walk in slowing, wade a bit, get a feel for the temperature and take a peak to see what the visibility is like under the water. This will all help give you reassurance and make you feel more confident once the gun goes off.

More: 5 Secrets of the Triathlon Swim

Position Yourself Appropriately

If you're a strong swimmer, position yourself front and center. If swimming is not your strong suit, then seed yourself towards the back and off to the side.

Once the gun goes off, take your time getting in and swim towards clear water. There is no reason to battle the chaos. It's OK to swim 10-15 yards off to the side of the buoys. Don't worry about losing a few seconds because the more comfortable you feel the better your swim will go anyway.

Finally, if you are a slower swimmer you can probably expect the faster athletes from the wave behind you to eventually catch up. If you're swimming towards the outside you may not even see them, but either way stronger swimmers will see you and swim around you. Just swim in your own little bubble and continue swimming one stroke at a time.

More: 6 Tips to Transition From Pool to Open Water

Start out Slow

When the gun goes off and adrenalin is pumping, a lot of athletes tend to take off and start swimming way too fast for their ability. Often people don't realize this until about 200 yards in when their heart rate is through the roof and they're gasping for air.

So, instead of starting off like a madman and struggling to finish, try starting out much slower than race pace and gradually increase your speed as you start to get into a rhythm. This way, you'll finish strong and have a better experience.

More: 3 Essential Open Water Survival Tips

  • 2
  • of
  • 3

About the Author

Chris Kaplanis

Chris Kaplanis

Chris Kaplanis is a USAT certified coach, USA cycling coach and owner of Ridgewood Tri Athlete, a triathlon coaching and tri club in New Jersey.
Chris Kaplanis is a USAT certified coach, USA cycling coach and owner of Ridgewood Tri Athlete, a triathlon coaching and tri club in New Jersey.

Discuss This Article