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How to Conquer Open Water Swimming

How to Conquer Open Water Swimming

Open water swimming is a totally different experience from swimming in a pool, and while lots of people dismiss it, it can be difficult on a number of levels… So if you’re preparing for a triathlon or you just fancy the challenge, then take a look at our tips for transitioning from the pool to open water.

Image of a man swimming in open water. How to conquer open water swimming
Photo by Alejandra Ezquerro on Unsplash

Improve Your Technique

You’re likely to be swimming long distance, so it is vital that you’re confident in your stroke. Front crawl (or freestyle) is the most popular stroke for open water swimmers, so start by making sure that yours is the best it can be.

Start counting the number of strokes it takes you to complete a length, and aim to reduce that without reducing your speed. You can find tips on perfecting your freestyle stroke here.

Train for the Distance

As well as being able to swim well, you need to also be able to swim the complete distance itself without putting your feet down. If you know that you can’t do it now, you need to build yourself up gradually until you’re at a point where you can before you even attempt an open water swim. You should be able to swim further than your open water distance in the pool.


This is a technique designed to keep you on track. With your head in the water, you might find that you veer off course. So, to sight yourself, all you have to do is to find a marker in the distance and keep looking up to make sure you’re swimming towards it. This is an easy thing to practice in the pool, so try and perfect it so you don’t disrupt your rhythm.

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While you might veer naturally, open water races often involve turning around marker buoys, sometimes four or five times. If you can, practice turning around in the pool without touching the bottom or the walls.

Group Swimming

Group swimming can be a terrifying experience. With hundreds of other people around you, limbs are everywhere. You can practice group swimming with four or five of your friends in one lane in the pool, but if you’re still unsure, try to stick to the outside of the pack at the actual event.

The Gear

Getting your gear right is a crucial part to open water swimming. If your goggles steam up or your wetsuit is too tight, then it isn’t going to help your nerves. Make sure you test all your gear before race day.


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