If you’re new to swimming, training in a lake, river or ocean may feel overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be! We’re sharing our open water swimming tips to help you make your swim as efficient and enjoyable as possible.

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Why Try Open Water Swimming?

Swimmers choose to hit the open water for a variety of reasons. 

  • Mix up your training: Are you bored of swimming laps? Want to get out of the chlorine? Open water swimming is a great way to keep your training interesting.
  • No pool access: If you aren’t able to get to a pool, or your pool is closed, try an open water swim instead! Remember: No pool, no excuses!
  • Explore nature: Open water swimming allows you to connect with nature in a way pool swimming can’t. Enjoy the fresh air and connect with the water in a new way!
  • Expand your social circle: Meet new swimmers at your local beach and expand your network of like-minded athletes! It’s always important to have a buddy when doing open water swims, so make an effort to find a few people to swim with.
  • Sense of achievement: Swimming a long distance in the open water is quite an accomplishment. Celebrate it! If you have an Apple Watch, track your swim using the MySwimPro app to see your exact distance and to export a map of your swim route!

Related: Becoming a Stronger Open Water Swimmer

5 Tips for a Your First Open Water Swim

Ready to go for your first open water swim? Here’s what you should know to be prepared and have a successful swim!

1. Survey the Environment

When it comes to open water, always think “safety first.” Whether you’re swimming in a lake, river or ocean, be sure you’re aware of the water depth, temperature, and watercraft present in the area. Also familiarize yourself with the types of marine life you might encounter during your swim.

Make sure you follow the local regulations and avoid restricted areas or swimming during restricted hours.

2. Have a Plan

Always plan your route before you start swimming. Scope out buoys and other landmarks that may signify your turn-around point. Set a SMART goal for your swim. You can set your goal based on the following:

  • Time: Say you plan to swim for 30 minutes, and have mapped out a route in which you’ll swim back and forth between 2 buoys. This is an ideal setup, since currents, winds and other conditions may affect your ability to maintain your expected pace over a certain distance.
  • Distance: You map out a 2 kilometer swim. You know exactly where you should swim to reach your distance goal.
  • Feel: You decide to swim until you get tired. We don’t recommend this, as you risk overdoing it.

Related: How to Set SMART Goals

3. Have a Swim Buddy

Related: Why You Should ALWAYS Have a Buddy in Open Water

We don’t advise swimming by yourself for safety reasons. Find a swim buddy or group, and swim in a pack! This increases visibility, and is more fun. If your buddy doesn’t want to swim, they could kayak or paddle board alongside you, like your personal lookout!

If you’re looking for a buddy, join our Global Community group on Facebook! Your new swimming BFF might be right down the street!

4. Use the Right Gear

Prepare your equipment before your swim, and keep it simple. Look at the weather and water temperature beforehand to make sure you bring the right equipment with you. For example, if you see that the water will be 60º Fahrenheit, it’s not smart to swim without a wetsuit.

There is a lot of open water swim equipment out there, and what you choose to use depends on your skill level and how serious you take your open water training, At a minimum, you should make sure you have the following:

  • Swimsuit
  • Goggles
  • Swim cap – Ideally in a bright color, to help you stand out to boaters and other people in the water.
  • Safety buoy – These buoys can be used as a floatation aid if you get tired during your swim, and also make it easier for boaters and other swimmers to see you.

Check Out Our Favorite Open Water Swimming Equipment on Amazon!

If you plan to swim long distances or you will be swimming in cold water, we also recommend the following:

  • Wetsuit
  • Neoprene swim gloves, socks and a hood
  • Ear plugs – These will keep water out of your ears, and are highly recommended for cold water swimming.
  • Energy gels – These are a good idea for a long swim. If your safety buoy also doubles as a dry bag, you can store these there!

Related: 6 Tips for Beginner Open Water Swimmers

5. Do a Dynamic Warm Up

Your warm up for an open water swim will likely look different than a pool swim. Before you hop in the water, it’s important to warm up your muscles and increase blood flow. It’s typically easier to warm up in a pool than it is in colder open water.

Dynamic warm up movements could include jumping jacks, arm swings, and any other movement that gets your heart rate up and body moving. For dynamic warm up ideas, check out the MySwimPro app! Each of our workouts contain a dynamic warm up to prepare your body for training.

Related: Why You Should Do a Dynamic Warm-Up Before Every Swim

Bonus Tips

Related: How to Take Off a Wetsuit in 30 Seconds

  • Don’t worry about your distance or pace compared to the pool. Your typical pool routine won’t compare with open water. Your first few open water swims are about getting used to a new environment and having fun!
  • Mix up your strokes or float on your back. Since you don’t have walls to break up your swimming, it can feel good to switch up your stroke every once in a while. Float on your back when you get tired.
  • Practice sighting. Every few strokes, bring your head up and look straight ahead. Find a landmark, like a pier, a tree or a building and swim toward it. This will help you stick to your planned route and remain aware of your surroundings.
  • Learn to relax in cold water. Cold water has numerous health benefits, but it’s important to slowly acclimate yourself to avoid shocking your body. Make sure you’re prepared with the proper equipment for cold water swimming, and practice breath control a few times before setting off on a cold open water swim.

Related: 3 Tips for Cold Open Water Swimming

Track Your Swim on Apple Watch

When it comes to open water swimming, using a smartwatch with accurate time and distance tracking ensures you get the most out of your workout. Whether you are an avid open water swimmer or a newbie just starting out, make sure you’re logging all of your swims in the free MySwimPro app on your Apple Watch. 

You might be wondering: Why use a third party app when Apple Watch has its own open water swimming tracker? MySwimPro offers an improved experience compared to Apple Watch:

  • Text on screen is bigger and easier to read while swimming
  • Watch your heart rate in real time
  • Keep a detailed log of your swims to track your progress
  • Share a cool map graphic that shows your path
  • Log workouts that count toward monthly challenge leaderboards
  • Your workouts sync to Strava automatically 

The MySwimPro app is free to download, and works with the Apple Watch Series 2, 3, 4, 5 and above.

Have you tried open water swimming? Let us know in the comments! Download the MySwimPro app and start your free trial of ELITE COACH to unlock more swimming and dryland training resources.

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  1. Howdy,
    Start now, make it compulsive to swim 4d/w. Keep it up, when Winter comes you will be uanble to notice difference.

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