What you need to know about open water swimming?
Posted by Tia Patel | JUN-30-2020
Fancy dipping your toes into open water swimming this summer? Read on for information on open water swimming...
A change is as good as a rest, so they say! With coronavirus taking away our social calendars and holidays, why not try something new this summer and swap that polka dot bikini for a wetsuit? Be at one with nature as outdoor swimming venues continue to open throughout the country.
Whether you're a seasoned front crawler or a leisurely breast stroker, read on for our tips and tricks for swimming outdoors.
Like any form of exercise, open water swimming has amazing benefits for your mental and physical health. The majority of these theories are based on the temperature of water being that little bit colder. Here are just a few reasons why swimming in cold water could become the tonic you need to see you through the next few months.
Better Circulation - This is particularly useful for the runners or cyclists out there looking to gain personal bests! When we become cold, blood rushes to our organs, making our hearts work that little bit harder. Every time you swim outdoors, the cold water helps to boost your circulation allowing more oxygen to circulate around your body and reach your muscles, reducing fatigue, so you can push yourself harder and longer when running.
Boosted Immune System - Immersing your body in cold water for an hour can shock the immune system and help produce more white blood cells and more antioxidants. This can help to boost your immune system and reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer. A cold water dip is better than being ill!
Increased Happiness - We’ve all been there when you’ve struggled to get out of bed in the morning and stepped into a cold shower. It's the wake up we need to start the day! Now imagine taking that first step into a lake, immersing yourself into cold water which causes your skin to sting. To reduce the stinging sensation, your brain releases endorphins which make us feel good. Combined this feeling with a workout and you’ve got yourself the perfect duo for promoting mental wellbeing to inject some happiness into your day!
What kit you need ...
Wetsuit - We recommend wearing a wetsuit to maintain warmth and boost buoyancy whilst swimming, although some venues will allow you to swim without one.
Your wetsuit should fit like a second skin. It will help you swim faster by reducing drag and keeping you high in the water. Wetsuits can range in prices but to know which one is right for you we have a simple test: with the suit on and well-fitted all over, hold one arm out horizontally and check the material underneath. If there are folds of rubber or an air pocket, there isn’t enough of you to fill the suit.
Goggles - A pair of mirrored lens goggles are ideal for open water swimming to give you an incredible peripheral vision. This will allow you to take in all of your surroundings and feel confident during your swim. Choose goggles specifically for open water. The lenses are larger than pool goggles and curved for a generous field of vision.
You may need to invest in rear-view goggles if backstroke is your thing as unlike your swimming pool, there is no ceiling to guide you! 😉
Cap - This is essential. It ensures you can be seen in the water and provides warmth and protection for your ears.
Sunscreen - Remember to protect exposed skin whilst out swimming! We recommend choosing a sunscreen containing zinc oxide which acts as a barrier and prevents the harmful UV rays from being absorbed. Secondly, choosing a biodegradable sunscreen which is environmentally friendly that will break down naturally to protect the landscape around our rivers and lakes.
Sunscreen has one other added benefit. It can protect you from the infamous “swimmers itch” caused by tiny parasites from birds and other mammals. A slippery layer will protect you from the itchy rash.
Swimming in a straight line has never been more important now as we adhere to social distancing measures. Whilst the principle of swimming remains the same both indoors and outside, there is some adaptation of technique required to keep you going in a straight-line and to maximise performance.
Tip 1: Frequent Sighting. The aim is to swim in a straight line as this will take less energy and time to get to the same place. By picking a fixed point and swimming towards it, the hope is that you will be swimming in a straight line. Try to ‘sight’ every 6 to 7 strokes. (This is easier said than done!)
Tip 2: Leg Kicking. Kick your legs in a regular steady rhythm to conserve energy. This should almost be like a flutter, keeping them high in the water to reduce drag.
Tip 3: Reach and Glide. Get as much travel as you can out of each stroke. Reach forward to pull and take advantage of the glide.
Tip 4: Breathing. We all have a preferred side for breathing on. But it’s good practice to learn to breathe on both sides so if the waves and winds are choppy on the left, you can breathe on the right.
The most important tip is to relax as this will help you settle into a rhythm so you can enjoy swimming outdoors.
Our Top 5 Swim Spots to really float your boat!
1. Cliff Lakes, Tamworth
The biggest swimming venue in the midlands, Cliff lakes has beautiful views of the surrounding area and is a multi-sport venue which is family friendly for anyone looking for a day out with the kids. There is even an inflatable water assault course!
2. Stoney Cove, Leicestershire
A picturesque dive site now open to swimmers, boasting Leicestershire's cleanest water, fed by an active spring. There are also some fantastic on-shore facilities too! Grab a bite at Nemo’s cafe or splash out on some new gear at the on-site shop.
3. Stubbers Adventure Centre, Upminster
This outdoor activity centre is a 20 minute train ride from central London with over 30 adventurous activities set in a 130-acre site; there’s something for everyone.
4. Dosthill Quarry, Tamworth
The historical centre of Dosthill currently holds the title of "The UK's First National Dive Site". The outdoor swimming course has been carefully set out as a 400 metre lap. It’s status as a quarry leaves the water clear if not a little cold!
5. Cotswold Water Park, Cirencester
This site offers open water swimming in a lagoon and even has its own beach complete with paddling area for your little ones!
Due to current government guidance, we recommend checking the websites before visiting as you will need to book a session.
We hope your first open water session goes swimmingly and you feel the benefits for your mental and physical health ! Don’t forget to tag us in your first session @gelpacksdirect
If you're in need of some motivation to kick start your fitness journey check out this.