Open water swimming is an extremely beneficial and rewarding sport to participate in if you’re looking for something a little bit different. While it may sound and look daunting (and freezing), it’s a quite freeing experience that can’t really be met in your local leisure and swimming club.
Not only does open water swimming provide you with the opportunity to develop your swimming skills and have a bit of fun with it, you will be able to witness the beautiful and stunning scenery of the lakes, lynns and lochs of the UK.
What are the benefits?
There are various mental and physical health benefits when it comes to swimming in the great outdoors. It’s a cost effective and worthwhile process which can essentially transform your mindset, body and life.
Improves Sleep – Mentally, open water swimming works wonders for the mind, body and soul. It can help insomnia sufferers sleep better! Professional researchers and sports enthusiasts have stated that any type of exercise improves sleeps and because swimming stimulates muscles throughout the whole body, swimmers are often more tired and require rest.
Works the Body – Our parasympathetic systems hold the responsibility for repair and rest, this is stimulated by cold water! Have you noticed how many athletes dip into a quick ice bath after a long exercise or match session? This is because the cold water relieves muscles soreness. So, if you’ve just finished a long practice session in the open water, make sure you take the necessary precautions, so you don’t wake up the next morning very, very sore.
Burns Calories Quicker – Swimming is one sport which burns calories much quicker than regular exercise! As the muscles in our body are being put to work as we swim, it also has to work twice as hard to keep our regular body temperature, so we don’t potentially freeze to death. Because of this, it essentially increases our metabolism and helps us lose weight and ultimately boosts our immune system.
Boosts the Immune System – When it comes to looking after our bodies and our immune system, it’s known that by immersing ourselves in cold water it actually increases white blood counts that help fight infection! Overall, swimming has an exceptional impact on the body’s health and wellbeing, if you’re one who gets sick too often, swimming might be one way to better look after your body.
How different is open water swimming to indoor swimming?
Open water swimming is very, very different from swimming in a pool. It’s like running on a treadmill then going outside for a run – different environments = different experiences. Although outdoor swimming can be more beneficial than indoor swimming, it does require increased performance, motivation and lots of practice! Here are some insightful and useful tips that can be put into practice:
- Practice for open water swimming in the pool first – your swimming technique will be a bit different in open water swimming, you’ll have to learn how to adapt your swimming based on conditions.
- Familiarise yourself with outdoor conditions – if you can’t stand fish, insects and other things that you may see or touch in the water, you’ll need to work on that!
- You need the right equipment and gear – this means buying high quality and effective wetsuits and goggles to protect you from the cold water and other elements that you may face
- You will need to stroke with a higher stroke rate than if you were in a pool
- In windy conditions, you will need to have an effective breathing technique to help reduce the amount of water you swallow
Swimming apps that can help on your open water journey
SwimIO Swim Fitness – Track swims, set and reach goals
Training Peaks – Track and monitor swim sets, track and reach goals
My Swim Pro – Personalised swim workouts
The most important thing to remember for open water swimming is that you need to enjoy it! You don’t have to worry about other swimmers getting in your way, with open water, there sure is a lot of it and you get your own space!
If you’re looking to become more active and lose weight, take a look at the apps above to help you. If you’re looking to train and participate in an open water swim competition, the popular ones are 5km, 10km or 25km so based on your training and performance, you can choose which one suits you best and which is achievable.