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Speedo Says...

Open water swimming: What to expect and how to prepare

Learn how to prepare for an open water swimming event and discover what to expect in our introduction to open water swimming.

With no walls to push off and no sneaky breaks to be had at the end of the pool (not to mention the added element of choppy water and outside weather conditions), it’s no wonder that swimming in the open water for the first time can be daunting.

An open water swim is typically long and continuous, requiring a steady pace, good technique, and stamina to keep you going. The good news? With a little preparation and knowledge of what to expect, you feel confident and ready, whatever open water event you’ve enrolled in.

Here’s how…

Practice ‘surging’

If you’re planning to use your pool time to train for your open water swim, replicate battling against open water by practicing surging. Surging requires you to swim for approximately two minutes (or a short period of time that suits you) at race speed, after which you adopt a steady pace and swim easily for the same duration of time.

Get in (and out of) your wetsuit

If you’re training for an open water event, practicing in open water and getting familiar with your wetsuit (including putting it on and taking off) can be invaluable. Wearing a wetsuit may affect your stroke and body position – practicing before your event will allow you to prepare for this and alter your stroke accordingly.

Feel the fear – and get in the water anyway

Nothing beats actually swimming in open water to get you ready for the real deal. The more familiar you become with the open water, the less fear you’ll have. And, although it might seem tricky to find open water to get into, there are plenty of open water sessions and training lessons held across the UK, devised by experienced professionals for different levels of open water swimming skills.

Still feel the fear? Watch our helpful Speedo video to see 10K open water silver medallist, Keri-Anne Payne, talk about how to get over the fear of open water swimming.

What to expect

If you’ve entered a large open water event, expect there to be some nudging at the start (the side effect of so many bodies in one place). In our video, Keri-Anne provides some handy tips and pointers on how to get the best start in open water, including sculling.

Next step, work on your sighting skills and open water breathing technique – vital for a smooth, energy-retaining swim. Keri-Anne shares her top tips for sighting and breathing in open water, along with how to stay calm on race day, in these helpful videos.

Sighting tips

Good luck!

For more swimming videos, including athlete interviews and technique demonstrations devised by our elite swim coaches, visit the Speedo UK YouTube channel.