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Do you remember swimming in a lake or ocean as a little kid? Maybe you jumped off a dock into the ocean, swung out over a river on a rope, or splashed around in a creek. That was so much fun, and your training in the pool went well...so why does the swim stage strike fear into the hearts of so many triathletes?
Anxiety is a common feeling during training and racing, and can spike to higher levels when the venue is crammed with other athletes. Even the pros get the jitters on race day, so don't worry--you're not alone! Friends and teammates love to share race tips, but sometimes the most well-intentioned advice turns into a cautionary tale about what not to do.
Take a deep breath, relax, and read on for tried-and-tested ways to reframe your anxiety:
1) Get excited! You're already doing something that only a small percentage of the global population would ever take on. Remember what made you sign up for this, and how incredible it feels to push yourself to try new things.
2) Think positive. Everyone will tell you that they had it tougher than anyone, that the water was colder than ever, and that their starting wave was the largest they've ever seen. Instead of thinking about the worst case scenario, close your eyes and imagine all the ways you've set yourself up for success. You're ready to handle whatever comes your way.
3) Practice makes perfect. Try putting on your wetsuit, not just once, but a few times. If you can practice at home, at the pool, or outside--even better! Getting familiar with putting your wetsuit on properly will help you develop muscle memory, making this part easier on race day.
4) Be here now. When you arrive at the water, go down to the shore and look around at the scenery. Take notice of the sky and the wind as it races across the water. Breathe deep and smile. Slowly put on your wetsuit without rushing. If you have a favorite workout playlist, listen to it to get motivated. This can almost be a Zen-like moment.
5) Play. Get into the water and familiarize yourself with how it feels. Float on your back, take in the surroundings, and try to touch the bottom if you can. Go underwater and open your eyes--what do you see? Open water can be rocky or have debris on the bottom, so wetsuit socks are a great gear option to protect your feet. Try to swim a few strokes in one direction, float, turn, and swim the other way. Remember how much fun swimming used to be? Turns out it hasn't changed at all.
After about 15-20 minutes in the water, get out. Take the wetsuit off, eat a snack, and stretch your legs--you're done. Save the open water training swim workout for another day. You're familiar with the water now, and had a great first experience in your wetsuit. Load that into your mental training files and sleep on it--positive association works wonders.
6) Plan ahead. Get your next open water training day on the calendar. Perhaps you're already feeling excited for the next time! Get some perspective: watch video clips online, spectate at a race, and look at past results in your age group. Where do you fit in with your times on the swim, bike, and run? You might find that even though you're still training, you're poised to be in the middle of the pack or better.
Repeat as needed, and you'll be on your way to finishing strong!
Shop our Open Water Swim Collection HERE