wetsuit tips for open water swimming

Wetsuit Tips For Open Water Swimming

Wetsuit Tips For Open Water Swimming


Most triathletes LOVE their wetsuits. Many love them so much they will only enter races that will have wetsuit legal swims!

But swimming in a wetsuit can feel very different to swimming without one. So the first time time you put yours on (ever or after a long break) it may feel a little weird.

If you use your wetsuit correctly it can cut minutes off your time on race day. The modern wetsuit will lift your hips up and get your body floating much higher in the water. This lift and alignment reduces your resistance and will help you swim way faster.

But they can also limit your shoulder rotation and make it hard for you to breathe. If you’re not used to a wetsuit or yours doesn’t fit, you may have a problem. It could end up causing your technique to change and affect your breathing rhythm. Both of which will lead to a slower swim!

Let’s look at how to make sure your wetsuit helps you swim faster, not slower than you do in the pool!

5 Wetsuit Tips To Make Sure You Swim Faster & More Comfortably in Open Water

1. Make Sure Your Suit Fits Before You Buy

Your highest priority with a wetsuit is comfort and fit… Wetsuits need to fit just right! If the suit is uncomfortable/too tight/too loose in any place it’s going to affect your swim. A poor fit could change your stroke mechanics, put extra stress on your shoulders and restrict your breathing.

You must find one that is comfortable and fits your body well.

It’s important that you make sure your suit fits before you buy. I would never buy a wetsuit that I haven’t been able to swim in and fully test first. There are retailers/distributers that will allow try before you buy. See if you can either try out a showroom model for free or rent a suit for a swim before you buy it!

You’re looking for something that is comfortable.

  • It should allow good range of motion in your shoulders.
  • You want the ability to stretch through your lats without feeling restricted.
  • Breathing deeply shouldn’t alter or restrict the movement of your chest.
  • It should fit like a glove, nice and snug but not too tight.

The brand or suit is a minor detail in comparison to fit. Most of the suits in the mid to upper end offer roughly the same benefits. Finding what works best for your body and stroke should be your highest priority.

2. Soak Your Suit Before You Wear It

Has your wetsuit has been sitting in your closet for a couple months during the off season?

There is a chance it will have shrunk or lost it’s stretch.

Soaking your suit in warm water before you wear it for the first swim of the season will help make sure it fits like it used to… that’s provided you haven’t changed in shape and size during the off season 🙂

wetsuit tips for open water swimming

3. Practice with it Before Race Day

We never want to be using new equipment on race day. You definitely want to have tested and feel comfortable in your suit with before you show up to the start line.

Ideally you’d test it in open water conditions similar to the ones you’ll be racing in. If that isn’t possible, at least test it out in the pool. Keep the swim in the pool short, so you don’t overheat and be sure to rinse the suit in fresh water after you’re done. Chlorine tends to erode neoprene!

4. Lube Up

There’s nothing more annoying than chafe. An annoying burning sensation on your neck or under your armpits is the last thing you want to deal with as you race.

Make sure you lube yourself up before race start!

5. Warm Up Before Your Race

It’s critical that you get in and warm up in your wetsuit before your race starts. The cold water can be uninviting early on race morning, I get it. But you are more likely to have a panic attacks if you haven’t acclimatized to the cold water or the tightness of your wetsuit.

During the warm up, open up the wetsuit at the neck and let a little bit of cold water in. That cold water will sit close to your warm body and heat up – that’s what keeps you warm through the race!

Any questions, email me or put them in the comments.
– Rory

***************************************

Related Advice & Tips:

This post is part of a series on swimming well in open water. Read the rest of the posts in the series here:

Part 1: The Six Culprits Of Slow Open Water Times
Part 2: How To Prevent An Open Water Swim Panic Attack Before Race Day
Part 3: How To Stop A Triathlon Swim Panic Attack On Race Day
Part 4: How To Swim Straight In Open Water
Part 5: Wetsuit Tips For Open Water Swimming



how to swim straight in open water

How To Swim Straight In Open Water

How To Swim Straight In Open Water


The quickest path between two points is a straight line.

If you are swimming off course and swimming further than you need to, you’re going to add seconds (or even minutes!) to your time. Doesn’t matter much how fast you are, if you swim further than you need to you will finish with a slower time!

It’s not always the fastest swimmer that finishes first but the swimmer who stays on line!

Swimming a straight line is the easiest way to improve your swim time on race day. Covering the shortest distance around a course and you’ll finish faster. You’ll come out the water further up in the pack. And overall you’ll have spent less energy than if you add unnecessary meters! That means more energy for the bike and run and a faster overall finish time! Winning!

5 Ways Make Sure You Stay The Course and Swim the Shortest Distance

1. Know the Swim Course

How To Swim Straight In Open Water

It’s surprising how many triathletes make this mistake! Don’t wait for the briefing on race morning to learn where you should be swimming! You’re smarter than that!

Is the course a square or rectangle?

Do you stick to the right side of the bouys or will you be keeping them on your left?

Is it one lap or two?

The race pack for 99.9% of races answer all these questions and more! Open it, read it, familiarize yourself with the course BEFORE race morning. It’ll take you 10 minutes and save you a ton of frustration!

2. Pick Good Sighting Targets

Here’s a secret I’ll let you in on; the marker buoys that line swim courses are pretty terrible objects to sight off of. They are small (even the big ones!) and can be difficult to quickly spot in the fraction of a second your head is lifted for the sighting stroke.

Rather than sight off the marker buoys, pick big targets to sight off. You’re looking for big structures that line up with the marker buoys. Buildings, trees, towers… anything fixed and big enough to stick out over everything.

Before your race, identify what will be the easiest structure to sight off. Familiarize yourself with its shape. Lock that shape into your mind. As you swim the course on race morning all you will need to do recognize the shape you’re swimming towards. It’s much faster to pick up on a general shape than a specific object. Much easier than trying to find an orange marker buoy in the rising sun!

3. Sight More Often

how to swim straight in open water

Now you know the swim course and have easily identifiable shapes to sight off. What’s next?

Make sure you sight your target more often.

There is no magic sighting number but my suggestion is to sight every 4-8 strokes. The rougher the conditions or heavier the current the more often you will need to sight. The flatter and calmer the weather the less you will need to sight.

A sighting stroke will momentarily increase your drag but the energy cost is lower than swimming an extra 100+m. So sight more often.

If you don’t spot your target when you lift your head to sight, you need to repeat the sighting stroke. Simply lifting your head does nothing for swimming a straight line! You have to see your target and be able to adjust your course for it to be effective!

On this note… If you are going to sight often you need to practice sighting… often. Work on making your sighting stroke easy and efficient during your pool workouts. Don’t wait until race day to sight every 4-8 strokes. If you do you’re going to find you swim slower and suffer with a sore neck on the bike! Practice, practice, practice.

4. Know If Your Stroke Is Balanced

There is a lot of focus on swimming with a “Balanced Stroke” in the swimming for triathlon community. Many coaches suggest bilateral breathing to help prevent you veering left or right.

In my experience very few swimmers have a perfectly balanced stroke… And bilateral breathing doesn’t do THAT much to solve the issue. Just being aware if you veer in one direction because of an imbalance will help you swim straighter.

During your next pool swim do a couple of 25’s with your eyes closed.

Which lane line do you end up bumping into?

Now you know which way side you will need to compensate for on race day to swim a straighter line.

5. Understand the Currents & Weather Conditions

Currents, waves, tides and weather conditions play a role in your ability to swim straight! Make sure you know what the conditions are like BEFORE you start your race.

You can feel for currents during your warm up. Notice what direction the current is pushing. Figure out how it will affect you at different stages of the swim course. Then make sure you adjust at each of those points on the course.

Another way to help get a feel for the currents is to watch the stronger swimmers in any of the waves starting before you. What lines do they take? Are they being pushed one way or another? Take note of what they do and you should have a better idea of what you’ll need to be doing.

Any questions, email me or put them in the comments.
– Rory

***************************************

Related Advice & Tips:

This post is part of a series on swimming well in open water. Read the rest of the posts in the series here:

Part 1: The Six Culprits Of Slow Open Water Times
Part 2: How To Prevent An Open Water Swim Panic Attack Before Race Day
Part 3: How To Stop A Triathlon Swim Panic Attack On Race Day
Part 4: How To Swim Straight In Open Water
Part 5: Wetsuit Tips For Open Water Swimming



end triathlon swim panic attack

How To Stop A Triathlon Swim Panic Attack Mid Swim On Race Day

How To Stop A Triathlon Swim Panic Attack On Race Day


We’ve been talking about the effect that panic has on transferring your speed from the pool to open water.

Panic on race day is one of the biggest reasons why triathletes fail to convert speed from the pool to open water. In the last post I showed you two ways that you can help avoid panic on race day.

But what happens if you do start to panic at some point during the swim on race day?

Here are three ways I deal with panic.

stop triathlon swim panic attack

3 Ways to Calm Down From a Panic Attack On Race Day

1. Clear Your Mind Of Negative Thoughts

Close your mind off to to any negative thinking. Negative thoughts have a habit of spiraling downwards and getting worse. Feeling a little short of breath can quickly lead to thinking you’re in a life threatening situation!

Don’t allow any thoughts that don’t serve you to linger. The easiest way to do that is to be task oriented, which leads us to number 2.

2. Stay Task Focused.

end triathlon swim panic attack

Don’t allow your mind to get overwhelmed by what’s going on around you. Don’t focus on how far you still have to swim. Or the fact that everyone is swimming away from you! It will only make things worse.

Focus on the very next thing that you need to do to get your swim done. It’s usually to take the next breath and start your next stroke.

Do that. Then do it again.

Focus on the things you can control. The things you’ve practiced many times over. Is your body in a good position. Is your hand getting a good catch on the water? Are you sighting well?

You will finish the swim one stroke at a time. So take that first stroke, then the second, then the third.

3. Breathe

If at any point anything doesn’t feel right or you’re not comfortable, check your breathing. Panic and breathing are very closely linked. Re-gain

Make sure you are in control of your breathing and that it is regular and consistent. Calm yourself and center your thoughts. Now you are ready to rock and roll!

Panic attacks prevent many triathletes from reaching their full potential in the water. Learn to love the open water. Your pool speed will transfer over much better when you do!

Any questions, email me or put them in the comments.
– Rory

***************************************

Related Advice & Tips:

This post is part of a series on swimming well in open water. Read the rest of the posts in the series here:

Part 1: The Six Culprits Of Slow Open Water Times
Part 2: How To Prevent An Open Water Swim Panic Attack Before Race Day
Part 3: How To Stop A Triathlon Swim Panic Attack On Race Day
Part 4: How To Swim Straight In Open Water
Part 5: Wetsuit Tips For Open Water Swimming



how to not open water swim panic

Preventing Panic Open Water Swimming Before Race Day

Open Water Swim Panic Attack
How To Prevent It Before Race Day


After months in the pool practicing your swim you owe it to yourself to best prepare for the open water on race day.

It sounds obvious, but open water can get the better of you if you are not prepared.

Panic on race day is one of the biggest reasons why triathletes fail to convert speed from the pool to open water.

prevent-open-water-swim-panic

Picture it with me…

Race morning. Start gun blasts and you’re off swimming.

300m into the race you feel it coming.

Oh no, here we go… No…

No, please no….

NO!!!!

PANIC!

You’re out of breath. Your heart feels like it’s pounding out of your chest.

You stick your head up of the water.
You start doing breaststroke.
You try rolling over onto your back or treading water.
Anything to catch your next breath!

At this point the only thing going through your mind is surviving.

While you panic, the rest of the pack swims around you.
Over you, and away from you towards the swim finish.

The triathletes that enjoy the sport the most don’t just survive the open water. They thrive in the chaos and unpredictability of it.

I want your your hard work to transfer from the pool to open water.

how to not open water swim panic

How You Can Thrive In Open Water Instead of Panicking On Race Day

1. Hit the Open Water More Often

Your experience in any given moment is a direct reflection of your understanding about it. You are panicking because you don’t know how to deal with the perceived threat to your survival.

You brain has a funny way of protecting you. When you are unfamiliar with a situation your brain will find any way to get you out, as quickly as it can.

Thing is, your brain doesn’t care much for your ultimate goal when it perceives a threat to your survival. So if returning you to “safety” means stopping, breaststroking or calling the life guard over, your brain will do it!

None of those will help you crush your swim goals though.

The better your understanding of open water, the better decisions your brain will make when it begins to perceive a threat.

Give yourself the chance to experience similar conditions to those you will be racing in. The more familiar you are with situations that arise at the start of a race, the more comfortable you will.

“We don’t rise to the level of our expectations, we fall to the level of our training.”

If you don’t expose yourself to the open water, there is a good chance it will get the better of you on race day. Create more opportunities for understanding and learning. Hit the open water more often and familiarizing yourself with it!

2. Work On Take Out Speed

Going out too hard and fast in the first 200-400m of your race is often the catalyst for a panic attack.

So work on your take out speed during training sets.

Prepare your body for the fast start. Teach it how to settle down into a pace and rhythm without stopping or having to do breaststroke.

The more you practice, the better you will transition from the sprint start to your steady race pace.

Don’t waste the months spent improving your swimming in the pool only to panic on race day. Set yourself up for success by practicing in open water and working on your take out speed.

3. Mentally Visualize and Prepare Before You Race

In 2011 The British Journal of Sports Medicine focused a study on IRONMAN triathletes. The study concluded that conscious thoughts have a direct impact on your performance.

Training your mind is as important as training your body.

How can you train your mind for the swim start?

Identify a situation you fear may happen and write it down.

Now think about where your focus needs to be in order to get through this moment successfully?

Is it your breathing? Is it your posture? Is it your technique? Is it just focusing on yourself and racing your own race?

Write out what you need to do to resolve the issue.

Next, think about what you need to do to trigger your brain to use the solution you have written down.

Maybe it’s a physical cue, or a mantra, maybe some words? It can be anything that will trigger your brain to start the solution you came up with.

Write out all the potential challenges that could arise in your race. Then program your response – don’t leave it to yourself in the moment.

Tell yourself ahead of time – if that challenge comes, this is what I do, so it’s not left to chance!

Don’t let race day panic ruin your swim. Prepare physically and mentally before you even get to the start day.

Got a question related to panic attacks in open water? Email me and tell me about it.
-Rory

***************************************

Related Advice & Tips:

This post is part of a series on swimming well in open water. Read the rest of the posts in the series here:

Part 1: The Six Culprits Of Slow Open Water Times
Part 2: How To Prevent An Open Water Swim Panic Attack Before Race Day
Part 3: How To Stop A Triathlon Swim Panic Attack On Race Day
Part 4: How To Swim Straight In Open Water
Part 5: Wetsuit Tips For Open Water Swimming



open-water-swimming-tip-culprits-slow-open-water-times

Open Water Swimming Tip: Six Culprits Of Slow Open Water Times

Open Water Swimming Tip:
Six Culprits Of Slow Open Water Times


Chances are you do a majority of your swim training in a pool. Yet in nearly all triathlon races the swim happens in open water.

Your ability to transfer your skills and speed from the pool to open water will determine how successful you are on race day.

It would absolutely suck if you spent months improving your swimming in the pool only to be just as slow or slower the next time you race in open water, wouldn’t it!?!

Yet a lot of triathletes struggle with this issue.

There are SIX main culprits that cause us to swim slower in open water than in the pool. Four of them are in our direct control, two of them are not.

Today I want to introduce you to all them and over the next couple of days I’ll show you how to deal with each of them… Here we go!

open-water-swimming-tip

4 Controllable Culprits of Slow Open Water Swim Times:

1. Panic & Fear

You may be calm and comfortable in the pool but when you hit the open water you panic and get stressed out. Remove the ability to see the bottom and take away any walls and mentally you go into a downward spiral.

It’s an awful feeling. You find it hard to breathe and your heart feels like it’s pounding out of your chest. To survive you switch to breaststroke. You tread water, roll over onto your back. Anything to get save yourself! The goal is no longer fast swimming, now it’s survival… And you never had this problem in the pool!

2. Claustrophobia

If you’re like me you only have to share your lane with 1-2 people at your pool. Maybe you swim at a busy pool or train with a masters group where you have 5-6 people in a lane.

Whether it’s 1-2 or 5-6 it’s small compared to 100’s or 1000’s of people that line up at the start of most races.

  • Being swum over
  • Getting boxed in
  • Getting caught in traffic
  • Getting kicked in the face

These are the realities of a lot of triathlon swim starts. And it’s enough to break the rhythm and confidence of even the best pool swimmers. It will make you slower than you’ve been in the pool.

3. You Don’t Swim The Straightest Line

The quickest path between two points is a straight line.

If you are swimming off course and swimming further than you need to, you’re going to add seconds (or even minutes!) to your time. It’s not that you swam slower… but you did swim a slower time.

4. You Never Practiced in your Wetsuit

Swimming in a wetsuit is a different experience. Most triathletes LOVE their wetsuits. But the first time time you put it on after a long break it definitely feels weird.

Wetsuits can feel restrictive around your chest and shoulders. If you aren’t used to swimming in you it will cause your technique and breathing to change. The moment your technique changes so too will your speed!

open-water-swimming-tip-culprits-slow-open-water-times

2 Culprits of Slow Open Water Swim Times Out Of Your Control:

1. The Actual Swim Course Distance

Swim courses are very rarely measured exactly right.

A 25 or 50m pool will always be exactly the same length every time you swim in it. Temporary turn buoys put out on race day have a tendency to shift with currents and weather.

More often than not swim courses are a little longer or a little shorter than intended.

Looking at the time as you exit the water won’t always give you an accurate reflection of how fast you really swam.

2. The Weather Conditions

The pool environment is controlled and protected from the elements. The currents, wind and water temperature in open water can be rough and unpredictable.

The conditions in the water will play a major role in the pace you will hold and time you will finish your swim.

Identify which of these culprits is your biggest downfall on race day. Once you’ve done that we can systematically work to overcome each issue.

Over the next few days I’ll show you how to deal with each of these main culprits. By the end of the series you’ll have all the knowledge you need to be successful on race day.

Any questions, email me or put them in the comments.
– Rory

***************************************

Related Advice & Tips:

This post is part of a series on swimming well in open water. Read the rest of the posts in the series here:

Part 1: The Six Culprits Of Slow Open Water Times
Part 2: How To Prevent An Open Water Swim Panic Attack Before Race Day
Part 3: How To Stop A Triathlon Swim Panic Attack On Race Day
Part 4: How To Swim Straight In Open Water
Part 5: Wetsuit Tips For Open Water Swimming