Open Water Swimming Invites you to the Deep End of the Ocean
Open Water Swimming:
Instead of swimming like a big fish in a little pool more individuals are eager to tackle a different challenge. They now want to test their skills by swimming like in one of the greatest swims in history in the open water of an ocean, river or bay.
Competitive swimming in Olympic pools is tough, but open water swimming is much tougher and open water swim training is a challenge. It was during the 2008 Summer swimming Olympics that open water swimming surged to new heights of popularity.
The open body of water means everyone competes at the same time, men and women alike.
Endurance and Nutrition
Most 10K swims in open water will take a couple of hours to complete, especially if you swim freestyle and/or breaststroke. Make sure you tuck at least 2-3 swim gels in your bathing suit for extra nutrition. There are always going to be nutrition stations set up along the course or with your own personal kayacker, but nothing beats having your own supply of fuel close at hand.
You do not have any starting blocks, markers or swim lanes (although there are no lines on the ocean floors:)to worry about. This is an event where your skills, determination, strategy and luck are all going to be called into play. While there are some sanctioned events now taking place in open water many top swimmers are participating in a variety of these swim meets (sanctioned and unsanctioned) whenever the opportunities arise.
Racing and Fun Enjoyment
Fans and participants have begun flocking to marathon swimming events such as the FINA World Open-water Swimming Championships or the US 25K National Championships each year to see which athletes can rise above the competition and truly shine. They become part of the unique freestyle swimming community .
There is something very basic and primitive that moves us to attempt to swim like the dolphins. We watch the creatures of the sea performing their wildly beautiful movements in the water and most land-dwelling humans respond by attempting to duplicate these graceful, fluid styles of swimming. It is the ultimate battle to triumph over nature when you can glide through open water with courage, strength and ease. For many people this is as close to being a ‘super hero' as it gets.
Open Water Rules?
You should realize that the rules are not the same in open water swimming. In this environment the tough athletes, the weaker swimmers and the strategically clever individuals are all going to battle for dominance. This is bruising, intimidating and invigorating athletic competition at its most basic level.
Here are some tips that you can use if open water swimming is an activity you would like to pursue:
Always pace yourself so that you can be sure to have that ‘second wind' as you close in on the finish line. Swimming in open water is strenuous and will sap your energy much faster than those swim meets that occur in a pool with a controlled environment.
It is every ‘man for himself' in this type of swimming event. Forget chivalry during an open water swimming event. Women are not going to be given any quarter simply because they are female. It is time to experience a ‘dog eat dog' society. If you have fingernails why not use them in the same manner as a fish would use his spiny fins. Competition be darned. When intruders are trying to plow right over (or through) you in the water there is nothing to stop you from delivering your next swimming stroke with a carefully timed lash of your hand (and sharp nails).
Keep those goggles secured under your swim cap at the beginning of the race, or you risk losing them in the crush of bodies that will surround you at the starting line.
Chart your own ocean course to the finish line, but keep your mind open to the fact that circumstances may dictate a spontaneous change in your plans. (i.e. always have a backup strategy prepared)
Pretend this is a NASCAR event and draft on the outer edge of a stronger swimmer. This will let you conserve energy while keeping up with the pack.
Don't fight the waves and currents. If the fish can ‘go with the flow' so can you. However, wind speeds will affect you.
A petroleum jelly product will help protect your skin from chafing that can be caused by the straps of your swimsuit. Hair removal may help you lower your overall swim time by a fraction of a second, but do this at least 24-72 hours before the actual open water race.
Perhaps the most important of all suggestions is that you remember to enjoy this ‘wet and wild' experience. Come on. How many times in your life do you not only get to swim with the dolphins (and other sea creatures), but you also get to pretend you are a dolphin?
Other Open Water Swimming Events
In addition to being an Olympic summer event there are many other venues for open water athletes to consider.
FINA World Cup and Grand Prix events
POW races and WOW open swim meets
If you have the drive, swimming skills and desire to meet the challenges then there are events that you can participate in throughout the year.
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Do you have a Favorite Open Water Swim?
Do you have a favorite open water swim? How far was it? Any special stories about your swim? Share it!