Making the most of your first open water swim

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The first time you swim in Open Water is one of the most difficult workouts a beginner swimmer and new triathlete will ever have to do.  The fear of the unknown, wearing a wetsuit and swimming without a black line can be daunting.  Add to that the cold water and many, understandably so, are apprehensive.  Many triathletes “skip” the open water swims.  That is one of the best ways to ensure a bad swim leg at your next race.  Teaching your body how to adapt is much easier in practice than by trying to figure it out during a race.  Additionally, if your wetsuit doesn’t fit right you are much better off finding out in practice rather than during a race.  Knowledge is power so reading these insider tips will go a long way toward helping you feel better prepared to face the challenge.

Yes, you need a wetsuit.  This weekend the water is still pretty cold.  I recommend a full sleeve, full leg wetsuit.  If you are racing showdown, Rage or IronGirls you will most likely be in a racing a wetsuit legal race. What is wetsuit legal?  Any time the water temperature goes over 78 degrees wetsuits will not be allowed.  This is to prevent athletes from overheating.  My advice is if you are wearing a wetsuit to race you should be practicing in the wetsuit you plan to race in if at all possible.

When you first enter the water, it will be cold but the wetsuit is designed to trap the water next to your body.  Your body heat will warm up the trapped water and voila, you will be warmer.  Which brings me to my next point:  the wetsuit must fit properly.  If your wetsuit is too big, the water will stream through as you swim.  Your body will never have a chance to warm up the trapped water.

Extra measures you can take to stay warm are wearing ear plugs, using booties and double capping.  While it may seem strange, earplugs help you stay warm by preventing the cold water from entering your ear canal.  Many athletes also find the earplugs help with vertigo.  It is normal to feel slightly “sea sick” on your first open water swim of the season.  Usually, after a couple of times out, this stops happening.  Wearing neoprene booties help keep your feet a little warmer.  They are sold specifically for triathlon and are often legal in many races.  Wearing two swim caps will keep your head warmer.

Training in the open water, especially cold water is challenging.  However,  it does get easier the more you do it.

I hope you find these tips valuable and I will see you out on the water!

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