Ironically enough it is around this time of year – most triathletes would be taking their first tentative steps (and oh so gentle toe tipping) into lakes/rivers and oceans to start open water swim practice. But this year it is a little more poignant with it being the first swimming opportunity in a long time with pools closed and likely will be for the foreseeable future.

So with that – I thought it useful to remind us triathletes (new and experienced) of some key Open Water Swimming (OWS) Dos and Donts.

One of the main differences with OWS is the need for safety – which features heavily below but once that is taken care of – you can get very race specific

  • DO: Dust off the wetsuit early – as most likely it has been in a corner growing things since it was tossed in the corner post last race with the stout lie “Yup will clean you tomorrow”

Be prepared for the fact it might be a tight squeeze into – off season particularly with lockdown cuisine may have made you a “more rounded” athlete – don’t assume it will be a snug fit

Oh and KEY TIP for newbies/experienced athletes alike – as part of your equipment check – make sure you have body glide or some sort of neck protector – or else you will end up with the dreaded wetsuit neck sore for sure! It is NOT a good look!

  • DO:Make sure you are familiar with the area you plan to swim – ideally an area you are comfortable with the tides/currents and hazards such as rocks etc

If it is your first OWS – make sure you buddy up with a more experienced swimmer who can advise of a good safe place to swim

  • DO:If swimming in the Sea – make sure you check out the tides before planning your training time. The best time for sea swimming is on or before the high tide

If you mess this up – best case is you turn up and there is no water! Worst case is depending on the flow set up tidal streams can be stronger (i.e. more dangerous) at low tide

Good news is you do not have to be a lunar cycle genius to figure out when best to swim – as plenty of apps such as “Tides near me” that will give you the time you need.

  • DO: Plan to meet up with swimmers of roughly the same ability as yourself. Meeting up with Steve the “5 min 400m TT” guy when you are a back of the pack noobie will just cause frustration for both.

This should happen when discussing the planned session on whats app or the club website e.g. we are going to swim for 30 mins in the local lake tomorrow at 11:00 – level is for Intermediate swimmers i.e. 2 min/100m pace. People can then self select the session that is comfortable for them

  • DO: Agree safety protocols with the group before you hit the water i.e. if someone gets into trouble they are to roll onto their back with their fist in the air to indicate the same, use a buddy system with newbies and have some way of ensuring everyone sticks together [My squad uses a “count off” system so can quickly identify if we missing #5!]
  • DO: Agree/communicate/re-iterate the session to the group before you hit the water and ensure everyone is on the same page. E.g. Ok we are all going to swim to the orange bouy (roughly 400ms) and everyone regroup there checking everyone ok to continue (we will count off to ensure group all in) . Once everyone is comfortable – we will swim parallel to shore to the yellow bouy (300m) and regroup/count off. Then it is a simple straight back into shore. Everyone clear? Any Questions?
  • DO NOT: Ignore the weather. Yes you may have juggled your training week for a Friday afternoon swim as tides look good and your buddy is free. But if you turn up and it is blowing a storm and the sea is alive with white horses/choppy seas – cancel the session.  
  • DO NOT: Ever swim alone – no matter how good a swimmer you think you are. Things can happen outside of your control and you may end up a statistic.
  • DO NOT: Take any risks in your first few swims in the water – only plan to do 10-15 mins of simple swimming close to the shore until your body has adjusted to wetsuit swimming/water temps and waves etc

This is especially important in recent days as most will be returning to the water after a long period on dryland and swim fitness/technique will be poor

So yes we are all excited about getting our swim on – but in our rush to get back into the water – do not ignore the key basics to make it safe for ourselves and our clubmates.

Once you have that in the bag – you can increase the planned distance or time in the water and then finally adding in key race specific skills such as drafting, cornering a bouy and/or sighting in a pack

Stay safe people!

**Ireland specific** With the Corona lockdown constraints still in place – our swimming and triathlon federations require us to only swim within a 5km of our residence and within our self selected training PODs of 4.

So making sure you pick a training partner who can swim in the same location/times and ability as you is key – choose wisely!

Steven Moody has starred in the corporate rat race but found his greatest source of satisfaction came from his 20 years of endurance racing including numerous FULL DISTANCE finishes and world championship qualifications

Realising this fact, Steven abandoned his cubicle and moved into full time coaching. Steven is now Tri Sutto, FULL DISTANCE UNIVERSITY ®, ITU and Training Peaks level 2 certified and in 2017, was awarded Triathlon Ireland Coach of the year.Browse his pre-built training plans by clicking hereor if you have triathlon queries you can contact him via