The author assessing a scary swim.
It’s that time of year again when you transition from the comfort of heated pools to the challenges of open water. For some swimmers, this transition is terrifying.
Arm yourself with these strategies to help fend off panic attacks and stay safe.
First, it’s best to rule out secondary causes of panic and discomfort in open water. These can include…
- An ill-fitting wetsuit
- Lack of practice
- Poor sighting skills
- Lack of racing experience
- Foggy, cracked or worn-out Goggles
More: Dave Scott's Open Water Swim Tips
You have enough challenges in open water swimming and racing, so make sure to address all the little things that can impact your performance. Simple things like new goggles can mean improved vision and a calmer you.
Second, engage in specific preparations for race situations, and the ensuing violence and contact. Some helpful ideas include:
- Enter local open water races and practice, practice, practice.
- Arrange supervised training sessions with small groups, and recruit a coach to follow along in a kayak.
- Practice fast starts in different water depths, running entries, and heavy physical contact with people you know. Learn to control your reaction to a random hit or errant limb with your friends, first.
- Practice sighting on the horizon and far-away objects in case choppy water obscures your line to sight buoys. Train your eyes on bigger markers and practice making quick visual connections to them when under duress.
- Use visualization and imagery to self-soothe if you feel fearful or panicky.
More:3 Drills for Open Water Swimming
Finally, figure out your own sports psychology as it pertains to swimming. Just like when you descend on the bike, know your physical and psychological limits. If you can learn to stay in control in open water, you can help prevent panic attacks and more serious medical incidents.
In the most basic terms, you should decide if you are a "lover" or a "fighter" and act accordingly in the water. Some swimmers would rather fight for position and a faster draft. Others would rather pause for a few seconds and tuck into the mix of slower swimmers. Being prepared means knowing how you want to race and where you fall in these simple categories.
More: Start to Finish: Owning the Open Water
This race season, develop an open water strategy that reflects both your technical skill level and your own psychological limits.
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