Monday, July 19, 2021

Tips for Swimming in the Open Ocean

What did I learn by swimming in the open ocean last Saturday in Virginia Beach? The first and most important lesson: You have to stay relaxed and comfortable during your swim. Not being comfortable while you're breathing during a swim is probably the most self-defeating thing you can do during a competition. Then, be sure to blow bubbles out of your mouth as soon as your face enters the water after breathing. Don't hold your breath. Relax and have faith in your training and your stroke. Finally, find your pace. Once you have found it, you can turn it up a notch if you want to. But don't try and swim as fast as everyone else. Let them be them and you be you.

So how did I do? I have to admit that I started the swim leg of the race uptight. I was worried about the distance, about the current, and about the waves. I was also frazzled because I had never done an open water swim before in a race. It took me a while before I could relax to the point where I would exhale as soon as my face re-entered the water. My tendency was to look up to see where I was. But when I discovered that I could reliably follow the more experienced swimmers for direction control, I could relax. Finally, once I found my rhythm it was smooth sailing for the most part. I had heard that you should count from 1 to 10 repeatedly while swimming. I did this mental trick and it worked wonders. As long as I could keep counting to 10 I knew I would be okay. I didn't need to kick exceptionally hard because of the buoyancy of the salt water. I just remained focused on my breathing, taking consistent deep breaths in and out. 1 to 10. 1 to 10. 1 to 10.

One thing that helped me greatly was the presence of lifeguards on paddle boards along the course. Occasionally one would ask me how I was doing. Just knowing that help was nearby if needed was an incredible confidence booster. In the end, I simply concentrated on three things: A calm spirit, a regular inhaling and exhaling pattern, and a relaxed stroke. Pace didn't matter since I wasn't in the race to compete.

Swimming in the ocean is so NOT like swimming in a pool. I am told it gets easier with experience. I hope so.