While some swimmers take to open water with full enthusiasm, others have a tough time transitioning from the calm, controlled pool environment to less predictable open water.

Whether you’re worried about big waves, scared of unknown creatures lurking below you, or aren’t comfortable with low visibility, it’s normal to feel nervous during your first few open water swims. 

But don’t let these fears keep you from trying open water swimming at all! Check out our tips to ease your nerves and build confidence for your next swim in a lake, river or ocean.

1. Visualize

It might sound corny, but visualizing your ideal open water swim is a great way to ease your anxiety. Going into your swim with a positive mindset – and a plan – can help big time!

Related: 5 Open Water Swimming Tips for Beginners

Before you head to the beach, sit down, close your eyes and picture yourself stepping into the water. Visualize every stroke of your swim, all the way through to the end, as you walk back onto the sand. You want to feel relaxed and happy after your swim. Imagine that!

2. Prepare for Cold Temperatures

If the water you’re swimming in is cold, make sure you have the right gear, including a wetsuit, neoprene hood and gloves or booties. If you aren’t used to cold water, don’t attempt a long swim!

Additionally, take time to acclimate your body to the cold and slow your breathing – it can be easy to hyperventilate when you first dive in.

Related: More Tips for Swimming in Cold Open Water

Wade out into the water, breathing deeply. Dunk your head, and continue breathing slowly until you feel relaxed enough to start swimming.

If you notice yourself starting to panic during your swim, stop and rest until you are relaxed again, or get out of the water altogether.

3. Plan Your Swim

When you arrive at your swimming location, spend a few minutes taking in the scenery and planning your swim route. 

The best open water swims are in calm water that is free of boat traffic. Some beaches have buoys lined up to denote swimming areas – these can be a great guide for your swim!

Determine how far you want to go, and how long you want to swim. Will you take breaks for refueling? Will you complete multiple laps of your route? Nailing these things down beforehand ensures a more successful swim. 

4. Understand the Tides

If you’re not comfortable swimming in waves, start out on a calm day, or try a lake instead.

If there’s a lifeguard present, talk to them about the tides, and whether there are rip currents you need to avoid. Let them know about your route and ask them to keep an eye on you.

5. Swim with a Buddy

Swimming solo in open water isn’t always a great idea. Head out with a buddy for extra safety – and more fun!

Related: Why You Should Always Swim with a Buddy in Open Water

Your buddy can help ease your anxiety and keep an eye on you throughout your swim. Make sure each of you have a bright colored safety buoy so you never lose track of each other!

In place of a swim buddy, some swimmers bring along a friend to kayak or paddle board alongside them. Others bring friends to watch from the beach. Whatever you do, don’t go alone!

6. Stay Close to Shore

We recommend staying close to the shore for your first swims. Swim in water that’s shallow enough to stand in, so you can easily stop and stand up if you need to. Start with a short 5-10 minute swim and work your way up from there!

If you’re worried about swimming off course and drifting out to sea, practice sighting! Pick a large landmark in front of you to swim toward, and lift your head to spot it every 10-20 strokes. This should keep you right on course! Get more sighting tips here >

And if you’re worried about sea creatures, don’t be! You’re less likely to encounter them in shallow water, and 99.9% of sea animals are much more scared of us than we are of them. If you see a fish or another animal, keep calm.

Overcoming your fears and anxieties about open water swimming can take a while, so stay positive, stay consistent and you’ll succeed! Join the MySwimPro Global Community Facebook Group for extra motivation and advice.


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