If you have entered a triathlon with an open water swimming stage, it’s important to make sure that you are well prepared. Swimming in open water is exhilarating, but it can be a daunting prospect if you don’t have much previous practice. Most people learn to swim in an indoor pool, and the great outdoors is obviously a very different experience.

Here are some tips to help you feel ready and confident for your first open water triathlon challenge.


Identify safe swimming spots

Just jumping into your nearest river or lake is not advisable, as not all outdoor locations are suitable for swimming. Many people prefer to join a club or swim with an experienced friend when they are beginners. Word of mouth is a good way to learn about safe swimming spots in your area, as are guidebooks and online resources.

If you are swimming alone, assess the location first. How clean does the water look, and are there any currents? Can you see rocks, debris, or other obstacles that could be a hazard? Can you get in and out of the water safely- is it tidal and is there somewhere safe to leave your dry clothes? How visible would you be if you got into difficulty?


Get your system acclimatised

Even if you do not have the opportunity to train outdoors regularly, it’s highly recommended to complete at least one or two outdoor swims before the main event. Even in warm weather, outdoor water is much colder than a heated indoor pool. Make sure you have the right equipment to help you make the transition safely.

A wetsuit will help to keep you warmer, as well as providing extra buoyancy and streamlining in the water. A silicone hat is also useful for extra warmth, and it’s a good idea to choose a bright colour so that you can be more easily identified in the water. Goggles are important to protect your eyes and ensure that you have clear vision.

It is important to have a plan for when you exit the cold water, so that you get warmed up quickly and avoid the risk of hypothermia.

Remove all your wet clothes straight away. It may be tempting to get straight into a warm bath or shower, but it’s safer to dress yourself in thermals immediately and wait until your core temperature has warmed up to normal levels. If you immediately expose yourself to warm water, it may put you at risk of fainting.


Practice swimming in groups

In the competition, you will be swimming with a large group of others, which can take some getting used to. You may have to practise breathing on a different side to the one you are accustomed to if your favoured stroke is front crawl. 

A common open water swimming technique is known as drafting. This is where you get into the slipstream of other swimmers, helping to propel you along. This can be an advantage, but it can also hold you back if you get stuck with a group of slower swimmers, so it’s helpful to learn the correct techniques.


If you are looking for open water swimming wetsuits in the UK, please get in touch today.

Tommy Reed