Top 10 tips for open water swimming

We like to think that we know a thing or two about open water swimming here at Go Swim! So, if you are new to open water swimming, we have collated our top tips to help you get the most out of your swimming.

1. Get a good fit on your wetsuit.

This can make or break your swim. We recommend that you get some specialised advice on fitting especially if it is your first-time open water swimming or doing a triathlon. It needs to be snug enough to form that nice layer of water next to your skin to keep you warm. Too much and you will feel like you have the lake in your wetsuit! Our sponsors, LOMO, have a great range of wetsuits available and if you are passing their Glasgow store, you can pop in and try them on.

Which leads us onto tip number 2…

2. Buy the best that you can afford.

We are assuming that most people reading this will be thinking about open water swimming for the first time and will be on a relatively tight budget. So, buying the best you can afford means that you feel happy with the suit but haven’t spent a fortune if open water swimming is not for you. Look for features such as thinner neoprene in the arms to allow room for your arms to move while swimming.  Bear in mind that your arms feel quite restricted to start with but as you break the suit in, it soon eases up.

3. Goggles.

What goggles to buy? There are so many on the market! The best goggles are the ones that fit you. It can be difficult to try goggles on these days as most are bought online but if you do have a friendly swim shop near you, then pop in for advice.

If you are susceptible to the cold, you may wish to consider goggles that cover the trigeminal nerve in your head (the one that is responsible for the ice cream head!) so that you can swim more easily if the water is really cold.

You might also want to consider investing in a plain and tinted pair depending on the weather. Sadly, your tinted pair might not see as much use, but they are good for those rare sunny days. This is extra expense, but it does mean you have a spare pair if anything goes wrong with your plain pair. This can take the stress out of race day!

4. Ear plugs

These aren’t essential for open water swimming. However, if the cold water affects your ears and your balance when you get out, then they could be considered a must. It’s a bit embarrassing staggering around like a drunk at 8am in the morning! The Zoggs silicone ear plugs which mould to your ears are great for providing a good seal. Although there are lots of different types, so experiment to see what suits you best.

5. Nose clip

Most people we know who swim with a nose clip have one because the chlorine in most pools irritate the lining of their nose. This isn’t going to apply in fresh or sea water. Although once you are used to a nose clip, it might be tricky swimming without it! Again, experiment with what is best for you.

6. No Jewellery

It is a good idea to swim without any precious jewellery. When you are cold, your fingers will be slimmer, and you don’t really want to lose your rings at the bottom of the lake. This happened to a friend of ours who lost his wedding ring on a night swim!

7. Bring a hot drink!

This is crucial for your well-being at the end of the swim. An insulated cup is perfect for this. It is absolute heaven to have a hot coffee to warm you up when you come out of the water, especially in the colder months.

8. Swim in the open water as much as possible.

If you are new to open water swimming and want to prepare for our events, find out about any open water sessions near you. You could also hook up with some Triathlon clubs just for the swimming sessions. If you can, take your wetsuit on holiday with you wherever you go and get in the water as much as possible or indeed, just get in, in skins!   

9. Remember that it is natural to be apprehensive!

You are likely to have it ingrained in you from dire warnings as a child that swimming in lakes and rivers is unsafe. Try to recapture some of your childlike sense of adventure if the prospect of getting in the water is nerve wracking. Or remember that organised swim sessions and events like our swims have good safety cover. Remember that when you have completed a session, the sensation of well-being is wonderful.

10. Take a moment to appreciate your surroundings.

Remember to look up at the sky and take a moment to appreciate the wonder of nature around you. John Lennon’s quote – “above us only sky “– always comes to mind. It makes a change from the ceiling of the swimming pool. Our swims are situated in the most picturesque parts of Scotland so enjoy the splendour of the hills around you.

If you are new to open water swimming, we hope this helps.  If you are an experienced swimmer, perhaps you could share your thoughts, other tips and experience?