Moving from a clear pool with full visibility to a dark, deep ocean or lake can be daunting for anyone. It can be even more troubling to a brand new swimmer. If your goal is to swim in the open water for a triathlon or swim race, there are ways to overcome this very common fear. These tips can also help you if you are planning a tropical vacation where you may want to try snorkeling or just swimming in an ocean. They can also help in other open water swimming activities, such as water skiing, tubing, or rafting.
The first thing you can do to overcome your fear of swimming in the open water is to become a very capable swimmer. And yes, this starts in the pool. (For tips on how to get started with swimming click here.)
We become more comfortable with activities and hobbies we practice over and over. For example, remember when you first learned to drive a car? It was a little scary, but over time, with lots of experience behind the wheel, you became a more confident and capable driver. Many of us now don’t consider driving a skill since we’ve become a little too comfortable with it! This is the same with swimming. So swim often and find a great coach or friend to help you along the way.
The second step is to understand what you are fearful of. If your fear is of swimming in the darkness, you can practice swimming in a pool with your eyes closed. If you are afraid of marine life, you can research and see the percentage of swimmers who are actually harmed by it. ( It’s annually a very small amount.)
Or are you concerned about the flailing arms and legs of other swimmers? Practice swimming with others on both sides of you to get more comfortable. Whatever the reason of your fear, getting to the root of it will help you prepare better to overcome it.
The final and most important step is to swim in the open water. This doesn’t mean you have to immediately jump into a lake or ocean and swim for an hour, but it does mean you have to face your fear head on. Start with a short swim with friends. Before you get in, check out the water temperature, currents and your heart rate. Make sure you try to stay calm and take a few deep breaths before getting in. Always swim in the open water with friends alongside you or on the shore watching you. You can stay in shallow water until you become more comfortable and repeat this process as many times as you can. Again, practice, practice, practice. If you become very anxious, roll onto your back and float until you have calmed down. This is a crucial technique to practice before your event.
When your event approaches you will feel prepared and have several ways to help alleviate any anxiety that may come your way.
Beth is a running and triathlon coach from Florida who began her journey through health and fitness as a high school swimmer. After leading an unhealthy lifestyle while in college she made changes to get back in shape. Since then, she's completed numerous marathons and triathlons and finished her first full Ironman in 2014. She's also a freelance fitness writer and blogger. Her passion is fitness in all forms, though she enjoys running and swimming the most, and she believes in doing what makes you happy and healthy.
Main Photo Credit: Iakov Kalinin/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: Jacob Lund/shutterstock.com