These swimming hacks will make you less afraid of the water

A day spent swimming at the beach
A day spent swimming at the beach

This year, I, self-proclaimed water baby, ocean aficionado and surf enthusiast took up a new sport: open-water swimming. I figured that since I’m already a lifeguard who surfs, swimming in the ocean would be totally fine.

I was wrong. The water can be tricky to navigate and damn-near scary.

That is until I spoke to Torpedo winners Bianca Tarboton, Alex Quenet, Lauren Granger and Jamie Day who took on 4km of swimming – interspersed with 12km of running – during the race.

They’ve broken down some pretty neat swimming hacks that could get you from dipping your toes to diving in head-first. 

Don’t let negative thoughts take over

“Open water swimming is more of a mental game. I did my first 2.5km open water swim at the Walkerbay Xtreme this year and I had several close-to-panic-attack moments during the swim,” says Jamie. “There is something about not being able to put your feet down that leaves you feeling vulnerable – but it is also part of the thrill. You can’t really stop. Remind yourself, ‘you can swim’, don’t let those negative thoughts take over because YOU ARE OKAY and then you’ve got a winning formula.”

READ MORE: Here’s exactly how swimming changes your body shape 

Get a wetsuit you like

It’s all about preference. Xterra makes really great swim wetsuits that have a very important purpose in cold water swims: they keep you buoyant so you won’t have to worry about drowning or swimming as hard as you would without it and they’re quite thick so they insulate your body from the icy water.

Lauren, on the other hand, prefers her surfing suit. “I’ve always stuck to old surf wetsuits and they have stood me in good stead,” she says. “In a race like the Torpedo, the comfort of the wetsuit is key, as the entire race will be spent in it,” says Alex.

READ MORE: Considering doing your first triathlon? Read this! 

Get in the ocean

For open-water races like Torpedo or Midmar Mile, doing a few test runs in the open is essential because pool swimming and open-water swims are very different. “When entering the open water, especially the ocean, one is faced with plenty of uncontrollable factors,” says Alex. “Tides, water temperature, wind, chop and currents all play a major role in the one’s swim.”

“Open-water swimming is a lot more technical,” says Jamie. “Staying on track is tough, but you also have to get into a rhythm. Find your rhythm and maintain your line.” Find the buoy you’re meant to be swimming to and keep swimming in line with it. 

This article was originally published in Women's Health SA. 

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