Tri Talk Tuesday: Prepping for OWS

I’m starting my first ever “Tri Talk Tuesday”! This week and next, I’ll be prepping for my first OWS (open water swim) of the season! Last year was my first year as a triathlete, and let’s just say my first OWS ever did NOT go well. Upon reading several fellow swimmer’s blogs, I discovered that I wasn’t alone in my open water swimming anxiety! I won’t completely rehash the whole horrible ordeal, but basically my chest felt like there was an elephant on it and no matter how many times I went up to breathe, I felt like I couldn’t get enough air.

After experiencing this, I did some research on how to cure swimming anxiety. After practicing all the “tricks”, and from just more exposure to the water, I eventually felt quite confident in open water. I had absolutely no issues whatsoever during my Ironman 70.3 or my full triathlon.

However, OWS season is quickly approaching, and I’m starting to get nervous about it. What if I feel the same as I did last year? What if I have to do several open water swims before re-gaining confidence again? Is it like riding on a bike, or will I have to “learn” all over again? I obviously have no way of knowing exactly what will happen, but I can try to do things to hopefully better my chances of success. I hope to do my first OWS of the year sometime next week. This means I only have a few swim days to “prepare” myself. Here’s what I started doing last week, and will continue to work on this week.

1) Swimming with my eyes closed in the pool. This seems stupid, but when you’re in open water (at least most bodies of water), you can’t see a thing in front or below you because the water is so dark. This is one thing that really freaked me out last year. I couldn’t see ANYTHING, and just freaked out. So, I’m practicing swimming in a more “hostile” environment.

2) “Sighting” in the pool. This doesn’t necessarily help ease my anxiety, but it does get me more comfortable with the “atmosphere” of the open water swimming. 

3) Picturing open water swimming. I remember very well what it feels like to swim in the cold, dark water, so I’ve been visualizing it regularly when I swim now. If anything, it’s helping me mentally prepare. And in the end, the majority of my “anxiety” about open water swimming is all mental!

4) I haven’t done this yet obviously, but when I have my first OWS, I plan to wear my wet suit (cuz it’ll be cold!), and bring a friend. It helps me to have someone swimming beside me; experiencing what I am.

I may have taken her for a swim as well :)

Do you get open water swimming anxiety? Do you have problems from year to year, or have you “cured” it? I’d love to hear your experiences!

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