Open Water Swimming

As we leave the pool and head to the open water there are some changes our swimmers should be aware of other than, "Where did the line go?" Here are five things to keep in mind as we head for open water.

First, everybody usually experiences tightness in the chest and difficulty breathing in their first swims. It’s usually caused by our body’s natural defense when swimming in cold water and exacerbated with by tight fitting wetsuits. It helps if you get into the water and acclimatize to the cool temperature on the beach before going out into open water. Swimming the first 200m slowly will allow your body to adjust to the new conditions and allow enough time to settle this anxiety. In no time you will be up to pace with a steady breathing pattern. Expect this reaction with your first 3 swims. Note: Cold water and exercise can also be asthmatic triggers. Please consult your physician for your own medical needs prior to swimming with the group.

Second, you can expect some disorientation. Opening and closing your eyes, rolling your head with each stroke, swimming on your back or difficulty with sighting may create disorientation or dizziness. If you experience this feeling, try a short series of breast stroke keeping your head out of the water with eyes forward. If your symptoms persist, immediately head for shore or signal water support for assistance. Most importantly, get your feet on solid ground. Consult your doctor for any personal conditions which may be causing this condition.

Thirdly, in most fresh water lakes, you will lose sight of the bottom 10m from shore. At this point you will need to navigate using “above water level” techniques. By now everyone has had a chance to practice these techniques in our indoor pool swims, so remember to sight often rather than swimming off course. Please note, water support is there for safety and when the swim begins is unavailable for instruction. If you have any questions, many of our club executive are experienced open water swimmers so ask for details prior to the start of our swims.

Fourthly, pace yourself. The buoyed course is approximately 250m in total. Start easy, let your body warm up and work to a steady rhythm of breathing, sighting and stroke. Sight often coming into the corners and maintain a steady stroke throughout the turn. Avoid swimming directly into the buoy and breaking stroke to make the turn.

And last but not least, we swim as a group so you will have the chance to pass, swim along side and get passed. A group swim is fun so get in the mindset of what a school of fish might feel like swimming in the sea. Unlike the sea, Paper Mill Lake is a man- made lake, no big fish, no crocodiles, no creatures (well maybe some resting on a pool noodle) but if you are lucky you may get to see some small fish. Keep an eye out for fellow swimmers and others from the neighbourhood who use this site for their recreation and enjoyment. There is lots of space, have fun and be thankful we have such a beautiful, clean area within 10mins of the city.