"Replace Open Water Anxiety with a Cocoon of Calm" quote by Terry Laughlin

It is hard to practice open water swimming and most of us could do with more practice. When it comes to swimming in a pack for many of us it will be the first time this year. Or maybe something you do just a few times a year.

Mass Swim Start for Triathlon

When it comes to the first few minutes breathing slowly and calmly is the most important thing you can do. Try to remember unless you are planning on winning, there is no need to panic. You can swim, you do swim and you have swum hundreds of times before. The chances are your buoyancy is better than ever in a wetsuit.

If you start to panic then reach for the reset button. 10 seconds, 30 seconds. A minute out just to recover will make a massive difference. Probably not to your overall time, but definitely to the way you feel. Chuck in a few slow breaststrokes and bring your heart-rate down.

What does it feel like to be outside the cocoon?

So many triathletes have experienced (many times more than once) the uncomfortable feeling of being in the water questioning if you can swim. Your breathing feels all wrong. You catch has stopped working. Other swimmers are too close. Everything can go wrong. Even experienced athletes will have a bad swim now and then.

Open Water Swim Training

In a triathlon, arguably if you are going to be weak at one of the events but still do OK, then the swim is the one. But being a weak swimmer and a swimmer outside their cocoon (or in distress) are different things. You can have a really enjoyable swim if you manage to settle down appropriately. If you have trained with a wetronome then it doesn't hurt to use in an event. But you have to actually listen to what it is telling you. We have heard from swimmers who have raced with a timer. At a time that all their training has been at. A pace that has been carefully calculated over many months to be the most efficient, just to be ignored on race day. The equivalent of setting your alarm for 4:30 when you have a flight to catch, then making a carefully calculated decision in the morning to hit snooze 3 times. 

To overcome the urge to swim that little bit faster on race day is completely normal. And we probably all do it. But being out of breath is not the best thing when your face is plunged into open water for the first time that year. If you want to have a panicky swim then do the following:

  • Start your swim much faster than you can maintain
  • Kick twice as hard as you have planned
  • change your swim cadence from 60 strokes per minute to 120
  • Put yourself right in the centre of the pack thinking it may save a bit of time

The list can go on. So to counter all of these points calm things down and try and stick with the race plan.