A guide to open water swimming

 Open water swimming is one of the fastest growing sports in the UK. Plunging into the rivers, lakes and seas around the country are hundreds of Britons, braving the cold to swim. The attraction of swimming outside, surrounded by nature cannot be overstated, but many are unsure of how to get started 

 With the rise in popularity of triathalonsmore and more people have experienced open water swimming for the first time. The sensation of swimming in an indoor pool and out in the open sea, river or reservoir could not be more different. 

Benefits of open water swimming

Open water swimming has been linked to many health benefits, outdoor swimmers have noted that they feel healthier and have fewer colds. Cold water swimming in the outdoors has also been linked to an improvement in mental health, such as an alleviation in depression symptoms.  A BBC article speculated that open water swimming could in some cases be used to combat symptoms of depression. 

Cold water swimming is a common healing technique to help with muscle pain and sports injuries. For those with aching muscles, exercising by swimming in cold water can be an interesting way to rehabilitate. Being submerged in cold water has also been found to create a boost to the immune system and increasing your circulation.  

Being at one with nature is an exhilarating feeling. Whether you are taking the plunge into a river, a lake or the sea the sensation of being at one with the wilderness is breath-taking. 

Take a partner to help if you get in trouble.

Open water swimming is a wonderful sport, but it can be dangerous if you go out to swim alone. When you are swimming in an indoor pool, there are always lifeguards there on standby to dive in if someone gets into trouble.  

Similarly, many open water swimming centres are supervised, often by lifeguards in kayaks who monitor the swimmers. If you choose to go swimming somewhere without lifeguards or other people, like a river or lake that safety net is no longer there. Taking a friend who is a competent swimmer can save your life.  

Unlike an indoor swimming pool, open water can have dangerous currents, loose rocks to trip on or sharp litter. If you lose energy swimming out past your depth, drowning can be a real concern. If you go out open water swimming with friends, make sure you know where everyone is at all times. Bright coloured swim shirts or hats as signals can make sure they are easier to find.  Many triathlon companies insist that competitors wear a bright swim hat to ensure they are visible in the water when they compete.  

Finding partners to go open water swimming with you is a great way expand your social circle. As well as exercising and experiencing the outdoors, many open water swimmers go out in groups to help to keep each other safe and make sure there’s help on hand if anyone gets into trouble.  

Wear a wetsuit for buoyancy and safety

Wearing a wetsuit is highly recommended for open water swimming in very cold water. Wearing a wetsuit helps you keep warm while out in cold water for long periods of time and also provides buoyancy helping swimmers to float should they have a cramp 

Pay attention to where you are swimming

Open water swimming takes place in the natural environment and as such, weather, river volume and currents can change from day to day. Pay attention to local news about your preferred swimming locations (particularly high and low tide times when open water swimming in the sea) and be careful not to go out in poor weather. Poor conditions, like high winds and rain can become dangerous very quickly when you are out in open water.  

 Other dangers to look out for include  

  1. Ocean tides 
  2. River rapids  
  3. Rocks  
  4. Dangerous currents 
  5. Speed boats or other water vehicles  
  6. Fishing line or nets  
  7. Litter, like plastic bags or sharp metal 

Triathlon Training

With the increase in interest in triathlons many athletes have taken to training for their events in open water. Bewl Water offers opportunities for open water swimming as well as running and cycling, making it the perfect place to train outdoors for a triathlon. 

Swimming well in a pool and swimming well in open water are two completely different disciplines. You can be an excellent swimmer while in a pool and still flounder in open water.  

From the cold conditions, to the inability to put your feet down, swimming in open water can be very anxiety inducing for people not used to it. Despite the lack of any crocodiles or sharks in freshwater lakes in the UK, many first time swimmers feel a fear of deeper water where they can’t see the bottom! Logically, we know there are no monstrous sea creatures living in your local pond, but many still have to learn how to fight that fear in order to compete.  

Going to a supervised open water swimming centre is a great way to build confidence for those experiencing open water swimming for the first time. You can also book a session with an instructor to help you develop your swimming technique. The way you swim in a pool might not always work in open water where waves and the cold can wreak havoc on you breathing technique. With no lines on the bottom to follow, open water swimmers also need to “sight”, looking forward over the surface during a stroke, to ensure they swim in a straight line. Beginners can often find that when they look around during a pause for breath they are heading in the wrong direction! 

Choosing a location for open water swimming 

Swimming in the great outdoors is a fantastic sensation, but selecting where to go to take the plunge can be difficult. If you live near a beach that can be an excellent place to swim – but many popular beaches have strong currents that can be dangerous if you swim too far away from the shore.  

If in doubt look for local open water swimming groups or clubs which can help you make your choice. Even the local council may have invaluable advice on where the most beautiful and safest locations are for you to go swimming in the great outdoors. 

Open water swimming is one of the most rapidly evolving outdoors sports in the UK; at Bewl we offer supervised open water swimming at some beautiful locations in our reservoir.  

Whether you are interested in open water swimming for recreation or as an athlete we are dedicated to helping you reach your goals. With dedicated staff to ensure you can swim safely, we will go our utmost to provide an engaging experience. To learn more about open water swimming at Bewl Water contact us today.