OW Swimming Help

Hi. I've been lurking on the boards for a while getting some great help whilst training for my upcoming first triathlon. Tonight I tried OW swimming for the first time and it wasn't good. I felt like I was going to hyperventilate every time I put my face near the water. Ended up swimming a lap head up front crawl!

Any tips for how to conquer this? I have less than 3 weeks before my first Tri, in the pool I'm fine and a strong swimmer so this has thrown me a curve ball!



  • You need to get back in and practice.  Until you are used to cold water it is natural to hyperventilate, but with practice you can control it.  Next time you go in you will know what to expect so you can take control.  Make a conscious effort to breath out fully and to take slow deep breaths rather than gasp.  You will proabbaly still struggle a bit for the first minute or two but after a while you will start to relax and get used to it.

  • dare I say cold showersimage, just need to get used to lower temps, you can work your way down through cool to cold. Hyperventilation is a physiological response you can get around, we are all the same!

  • This is a completely normal reaction for a first time ow swim. I'm quite happy swimming in open water now but will still take time after getting in to acclimatise to the water.  Get in, let a little water in at the neck of the suit, stay as relaxed as possible and just tread water for a short time while you get your breathing under control. Breaststroke and/or  float face down in the water for a few seconds.  Wait until you're feeling relatively relaxed and in control before you actually start trying to crawl.

    OW is much nicer than pool swimming once you overcome that initial shock

  • OW swimming is also faster for people like me, god bless the wetsuit!

  • Glad someone else has been lurking, and had the same OW swim problem.  Mind you I'm useless in the pool as well image

    I ended up swimming with my head out of the water the whole way, but even then I ended up swallowing what felt like gallons of water.  If I keep practicing the world water shortage will get worse, but I know I've got to do it. 

  • I have the same problem with the breathing - no worries in the pool - went to 3 sisters last wed night for my first time and could not breath. Did my first tri yesterday in llanberis and had to keep swaping from fc to bs for the 1000m - I know I can do it, but need lots more time in the ow. I was 11 mins slower yesterday than in the pool, so it must be in my head!

  • it's in your head, there is a world of difference between a shallow warm pool with lines on the bottom and a lake, then there's the sea............image

  • I don't think I know anyone who hasn't had an experience or two of near panic when first going under - even a friend of mine who is an excellent swimmer has them from "out-of-nowhere".Just did my first of the year, and arms stopped working after 100m - but I knew they'd come back to me so long as I stayed calm, I didn't know this, 2 years ago, when it happened, and thought I was gonna drown. I just keep at it, expecting the worst each time, and end up with a mental database of 'issues', knowing they'll naturally come and go image I'm still a rubbish swimmer mind, but like 'citizen 146' said "bless the wetsuit", it does most of my work!!!image

  • Thanks all, helps to know its not just me! Will try again on Wednesday and practise breathing before swimming. image

  • I accidentally went for my first lake session the week before last. It was a bit unintentional, I did have my OW kit in the boot, but the wind was howling and the temps were not good. But the lake owner gave me and another couple of first timers some tips.
    -Get in, and then let a bit of water into the wettie. It's a brief shock, but warms up in and instant. Much better than a creeping trickle.
    -Put your goggles on before your hat. That way they aren't being lifted off your face and allowing a leak.
    -You will get ice cream headache. It will go away after a couple of hundred metres.
    -Look up and sight the trees beyond the buoy. If you need to change direction, look again after one stroke. It's too easy to over correct.
    -There's nothing wrong with wearing bootees or even gloves in training. Neoprene hoods are a personal thing, but the spring and summer fashion appears to shun them.

    When you've been once, go again. You will persuade yourself that you have to improve on the previous outing.

  • This is the most comforting thread I could have hoped for.  I am also doing my first triathlon in 3 weeks.  I also had my first OW session a few days ago.  I can cover the distance easily in the pool but I stepped out of the water at the weekend truly doubting whether I would even get to the first transition.  @MissSunshine326 - I know it probably doesn't help you much, but thank you for your post.  At least I now know it's not just me.

    Back into the water on Saturday morning then.  It has to get easier!

  • I still do that every time in OW. Only solution for me is to get face fully acclimatised to it. Dipping in and out in shallow water while screaming like a girl.image

    After 5 mins, it's usually fine. At least now, you know to expect it and what to do. But it can be very disconcerting at first. Especially in the sea, which moves all by itself as well.

    Practice and more practice. And no, I ain't going OW yet, too sodding cold!

    Helps a bit if you go with someone else as it takes your mind off it.

  • Has anyone got any knowledge of 'swim smooth' - I seem to have all of the negative features of all bar one of the types... is it worth the investment of time and ££s?

  • Dustboy - cold it certainly is. My right foot has frostbiteimage

    I have also been into an open air pool in my wetsuit and I think it has helped. %th open water swim tonight and finally no asthmatic panic attack

  • D0MD0M ✭✭✭

    I did my first OW swim last night.  Only my fourth OW swim ever.  Took to it very easily last autumn, but was a little un-nerved yesterday.  Spent all winter improving technique/speed/swim fitness in the pool, but the cold water, not being able to see where you are going because the sun was in my eyes, different body position and most of all, not being able to gauge speed/technique due to the lack of any point of reference, made it tricky. Managed 1500m (ish) and i`m sure next week will be better and hopfully warmer. Practise, practise, practise.

  • Hi All, just wanted to come back and say a big thank you for all the advice and words of encouragement - I went back tonight and managed a decent swim with head in the water! Still need some practice but feeling much better about it all. So thanks to you all.

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