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Newbie to open water



  • I'd like to try lake swimming. How should I begin?



  • Assuming you know how to swim in a pool, I'd start by looking in your general area for any lakes that have swimming on a regular basis, with a lifeguard on duty, and an area roped off specifically for swimmers. Practice swimming and learn to "sight" so that you can swim straight. Remember, there's no black line at the bottom of a lake :-)
    When sighting, you'll want to lift your eyes above the water level, while still maintaining a good horizontal body position. When we lift our head to sight, our legs usually sink, so we try to lift just our eyes above the water level, rather than our whole head. There are several different ways to sight--personally, I am most comfortable lifting my eyes up when my right arm is entering and extending out in front of me. Then I put my head back down in the water, (as I catch) and then rotate to breathe as my left arm enters, and I complete my pull on the right side as well. Try to sight something high as it is easier to see.
    I'm not sure this is what you were looking for, but I hope it helps!



  • First, find friends to go with you. Never swim alone! Triathlon clubs usually know the good local places. You may want to try a wet suit for the extra buoyancy and warmth if the water is cold. Are you comfortable treading water in case you tire? I would chose water with very little wave action for the first few experiences.



  • Assuming you know how to swim in a pool, I'd start by looking in your general area for any lakes that have swimming on a regular basis, with a lifeguard on duty, and an area roped off specifically for swimmers. Practice swimming and learn to "sight" so that you can swim straight. Remember, there's no black line at the bottom of a lake :-)
    When sighting, you'll want to lift your eyes above the water level, while still maintaining a good horizontal body position. When we lift our head to sight, our legs usually sink, so we try to lift just our eyes above the water level, rather than our whole head. There are several different ways to sight--personally, I am most comfortable lifting my eyes up when my right arm is entering and extending out in front of me. Then I put my head back down in the water, (as I catch) and then rotate to breathe as my left arm enters, and I complete my pull on the right side as well. Try to sight something high as it is easier to see.
    I'm not sure this is what you were looking for, but I hope it helps!

    I agree with this, it's definitely a good idea. If there are no lakes near you, try learning the open water swimming techniques in a pool and then take them to the lake.



  • As mentioned above, the most important thing is Rule #1, Never Swim Alone. If you can't find a place that has a lifeguard and enough room to practice, get one or more partners. Your partners don't have to be swimmers, in fact having someone in a kayak, stand up board, row boat, canoe, or motor boat can be a big asset. They can help point you in the right direction if you just swim next to their craft. Then you can hold on or even climb aboard if you get tired. This can also help ward off powerboats/jet skis. Having a Float/swim plan is an important step as well. I mean, have someone on land who knows where you are and is prepared to call 911 or other authorities if you don't report back by a certain time.

    Also, always scout the water before hand. Talk to locals to find out how the body of water is in terms of depth, bottom type, obstacles, water conditions, etc. Be aware that water conditions drastically affect your ability to swim. It's hard to breath while swimming if the wind is whipping up the surface into a series of waves.

    Knowing multiple strokes is key. You need to have backup strokes for when you get tired. Resting strokes like Breast stroke, elementary back stroke, and side stroke and great for recovering energy while continuing to swim. Breast stroke is great for open water as either a main stroke or a secondary stroke that you use for resting and spotting/navigating. For example, take several strokes of freestyle, and then one of breast stroke. If you do swim freestyle, definitely breath on both sides to enhance spotting/awareness of location. There are variations to some strokes that can be useful. Many open water swimmers swim freestyle with their head angled higher so they can see ahead. A friend I met once a long while ago swam a style she called "Aussie Crawl" that involved several strokes of freestyle mixed with a stroke of side stroke. So, for example, you might take three strokes of freestyle and then on the fourth, turn your whole body on your side, and take a stroke of side stroke, to relax and take a look at your surroundings, then switch back to freestyle.

    Remember, there could be any number of power boaters in the area, or you might need help if you get tired. Visibility is key for those situations. Bright colored swim caps, suits, or tow floats are big helps for being spotted. Orange and Yellow are the best colors for being spotted in my opinion.

    I hope some of that helps.



  • Andrew, thanks for your excellent coverage of the subject. I second your advice.



  • +1 for the recommendation for a safety float - basically an inflatable orange bag that you tow...makes you easier to see in the water, can provide floatation if you need to rest, and can hold some stuff (phone, keys, wallet...) in a waterproof compartment. Adds almost zero drag and increases your safety.


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