Its that time again to brave the open water swimming in time for your first events, Unfortunately the weather hasn’t been particularly warm this year so the water is tending to be cold! However I remember last year being just 11 degrees in there after a really cold start to the year so i’ll take the 14 degrees it was this year!

I tend to head to Eastleigh Lakeside, run by Howl Multisport, early in the season as this Lake is more shallow than most and also a bit smaller in size meaning you can stand in most places. This all helps it be a little warmer than some of the larger lakes you can swim. The weather was sunny outside and around 16 degrees so I headed down with my partner Gemma in the hope the temperature would be good for a half decent swim. As with every year the main focus for me is to just get in, I tend to keep the distance to swim lower as the coldness can really affect many things, for example how tired or stiff your shoulders can feel, or how your core temperature can drop, also your breathing can become shallower.

We got changed remembering the key things to putting a wetsuit on so its comfortable and effective, using a plastic bag to put on my feet and hands to put through the legs and arms to keep it smooth and much easier, it just glides in! I also soaked the wetsuit in the bath a few days before, this is a good advice if its new or you haven’t used it for a while it is much stiffer to get on and can feel more restrictive. There is a real knack to pulling the wetsuit all the way up towards the groin on the lower half off the body so that it goes on properly on the upper body and doesn’t feel tight! It must appear to an outsider that we are all part of strange dance! Putting a little dab of vaseline on my neck as without it always causes a little burn mark and can become sore, something you don’t really feel when your in the water.

We then headed down to the water, it was indeed feeling cold, we got in and got underwater allowing just a little water in to the suit. Then it was head down and go, it feels cold and numbing when you get in in this temperature so its brave it and go mainly thinking about my stroke! I aim to keep the form rather than think about how cold it is! I’m 5 kg lighter and much leaner this year and wow that makes a difference to how cold I felt!

I got into my stroke well and covered 2000 m in around 29 minutes so I was happy, it was also time to get out, I could tell as my speech was impaired and I was starting to shiver. Time to practice getting out of the wetsuit quickly! For two reasons, this is not my strong point on the day of races so practice makes perfect and also its cold and I want to get warm clothes on to get the core temperature up again!

I caught up with Gemma and she had a great swim to, again getting out at the right time, last year it was her first swim and it was 11 degrees, she did well that day!

The Saturday after I took a client for his first swim, Aaron who is pictured above, he did amazingly well. 6 months ago he couldn’t swim 2 lengths of an indoor pool but he completed 2500 m and comfortably too! Well done Aaron!

Here’s a few tips for your first open water swim:

Its that exciting time again of being able to get in the open water! No chlorine to inhale just fresh air. It may also be your first ever open water swim, I’ve just completed my first open water swim, at Eastleigh Lake and loved it, here are a few tips from me in order for that first swim to go well!

  • Before you arrive make sure you have all your kit with you, including a bright coloured swim cap so that the lake marshall’s can safely monitor everyone.
  • Make sure you are not biting off more than you can chew before you start, the idea of this swim is to start to acclimatise to the water. My advice is go in with a smaller distance in mind, the chances are the water is going to be a little colder (14 degree’s for mine, 10.5 last year!) When you get in colder water it will feel harder, in breathing, actually swimming and just to get warm.
  • Once your in make sure you let just a small amount of water in the wetsuit.
  • If you haven’t worn your wetsuit for a while then it will be very dry and it can be very difficult to put on for this reason, therefore you don’t put it on properly and its feels tighter than your used to. A couple of days before pop in to the bath or shower and get it wet!
  • Once you get going concentrate on the stroke straight away, get into your stroke count immediately, if its cold this may affect the whole body and make you speed you arms up as they feel a little numb, it will take a couple of hundred meters to feel good, so the first 5-10 minutes are important.
  • Have a goal distance or time planned and keep it shorter for the first swim, maybe 20/30/40 minutes or 1500-2000m, it really depends on your swim ability. Make it realistic, we want you feeling like you have accomplished on that first swim.
  • Once you have completed your swim, make sure you have something warm and dry for when you get out, maybe even a flask of a hot drink so that you can warm up, the worst thing is to stand there shivering and letting your bodies core temperature drop.

Now head off and enjoy your first swim of the season!