Dolphins' Top Tips for Open Water Swimming

Our club members have a wealth of open water and long distance swimming experience, so whether you are preparing for your first, short open water swim or a more challenging distance, someone within the club has probably done it before and will be more than happy to talk about their experiences and pass on advice.

The following open water swimming tips have been collated from members past and present. In no particular order:

1. Safety. Well organised events such as those held by the BLDSA and of course clubs like the Dolphins, will have good safety cover. However, if you are swimming on your own in open water, make sure you are accompanied by a support boat/kayak and do not venture too far from the shore.

2. Warm Clothing. Make sure you take plenty of clothes, gloves and a hat for after the swim. Even on the warmest of days, a few hours in a lake and your body temperature drops, or the weather could change. Escort crew should also take clothes for all conditions.

3. Learn to breathe both sides on front crawl. This can be essential in windy or choppy conditions.

4. Getting used to the cold. Part of your training needs to be outdoors. Start with short swims/events and steadily increase time and distance as you become more accustomed to the cold water.

5. Feeding and Hydration. Remember, in cold water your body will require more energy just to maintain core body temperature. For any swim expected to last 90 minutes or more, think about feeding during the swim. Most swimmers aim to feed around once per hour. There are numerous bars, drinks and gels on the market but you need to try and find a food that suits you. Talk to experienced members about what they use but make sure you try it out in training first to check that it does not cause you any side effects such as stomach upsets or cramps. Even though you are immersed in water you also need to make sure you are properly hydrated before, during and after a swim, so do not forget to incorporate fluids in to your feeding.

6. Lubrication. On longer swims and especially sea swims put plenty of Vaseline on your neck, arm pits and inner thighs to prevent rubbing. A great tip is to use disposable surgical gloves to apply the Vaseline then it does not get all over your goggles.

7. Apply sunscreen. It might seem hard to believe after recent summers but you can easily get sun burnt. Look for high SPF, water proof and long lasting sports sunscreen such as Banana Boat Sport.

8. Preparation. If you are new to open water swimming come along to open water training and try one of the shorter novice events now available at a number of swims. If you intend to swim a longer event, plan well in advance, starting early in the season with shorter swims building up to the longer distances.

9. Make sure you have comfortable goggles and swimwear. Try them out first before an event & always carry spares to events and in your support boat. See link below for advice for purchasing/ wearing a wetsuit.

10. Mainly for the gents (you would hope!) - Shave off stubble before a swim but not just before a sea/dock swim as salt water and razor burn do not go well together.

11. Finally, a great tip that seems to work for many long distance swimmers is not to think about the whole length of a distance swim. Just take it one hour at a time, from one feed to the next. It's amazing how the time and the distance passes without you really noticing - honest!

If you have any more tips to share with members, please let Christian or Andy know.