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OW swimming advice

I have been open water swimming twice in preparation for my first Tri this summer. The first time I went I had real problems trying to breath due the the cold temp of the water and I did about 600m of breaststroke and while putting my face further into the water before I was comfortable enough to start front crawl. The 2nd time I went I spent about 5 mins slowly putting head in before setting off. It all got a bit frustrating when I saw others just strolling in and setting off straight away. Is this a problem that I will overcome with experience or am I just a very sensitive chap .


When I get out of the water I feel very faint and have to crouch down for about 10-15 secs. I assume that this is because all my blood is busy elsewhere in my body and when I go from being horizontal to vertical my head doesn't like it.

Any advice would be much appreciated.


  • risris Posts: 1,002

    hi  evansP - welcome to the forums

    you aren't alone - i can still remember my first couple of attempts at open water. nice summer eventing, lake pretty warm, and head-up front-crawling because i was struggling putting my face in the water. after a few hundred metres it got better, but it took a few more goes to relax properly into swimming without a black line on the bottom to follow along!

    i'd put it down to experience and suggest you keep trying. you will get used to it. find the way that works for you - i can't just jump in, i need a minute or two to get in, put my face in and rinse my goggles. helps me focus and most starts are rarely 'run-in' types. 

    with your dizziness at the end of the swim, some people get this and the most common suggestion is to give the legs a good kick toward the end of the swim. i think it is supposed to move the blood around the body, and particularly into the legs - with a wetsuit on it is easy to stop kicking!

  • Hi,,I'm new to Triathlon this year and I too had issues on my first open water swim very similar to you. I wasn't expecting to have issues as I have surfed for years and spent time plenty of time in the sea during the summer and winter. However my first open water lake swim freaked me out for some reason and I don't think I was expecting it to be as cold as it was.

    Anyway I now take my time getting in and don't start swimming until my breathing is back under control, I wear earplugs to prevent cold water getting in my ears and also wear a large swim cap that also covers my ears.

    I don't have any problems with dizziness but as Ris suggests a good kick of the legs near the end of the swim should get the blood pumping again.

    No two people are the same, so you may never be one who can stroll straight in and swim off (well not comfortably anyway). Practice, practice, practice,,,others said it but I thought it would be easy and that I didn't need to so I planned to only get one open water swim in the week before my first Triathlon, after this first experience I quickly planned another open water swim 3 days before the event)

    I now make sure I go once a week and each time I learn something new and become more comfortable.

  • risris Posts: 1,002

    just realised that there are some tips from Chrissie Wellington on the site from a few weeks ago:


    i think the point about relaxing into a smooth stroke as early as possible is a good one - when you are surrounded by people all pushing hard it is easy to get drawn into doing the same.  set your own pace and when they blow up you will overtake them! 

  • NJLNJL Posts: 7

    As a pretty new OW swimmer i'd definitely agree with Ris. I made the mistake of trying to keep up on my first OW swims and never found a steady rythm or felt comfortable until the second half of the swim.

    When I look back at my GPS data, the pace in the first section is way higher than my intended race pace and when you combine that with short breathing from the cold, it's no suprise it falls apart.

    Taking it slow at the beginning and holding a steady pace is definitely the way to go. Easier said than done though!

  • NJLNJL Posts: 7

    forgot to say - I was instructed to let water into the wetsuit by pinching the neck line as soon as I'm in the water. 

    Shock to the system when done, but it means that you have a warmer layer of water already in there when you start the swim. Seems to help

  • Sam181Sam181 Posts: 6

    Some people find they acclimatise by swimming in cold water regularly- i.e. the open water swimmers who swim all year without a wetsuit....(although this does not work for me!)

    Some of it is in the mind- I have found this makes a difference instead of thinking "this is awful, Im so cold" replace with "actually Im fine and I will enjoy this race etc " 

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