It's windy and raining -- time to postpone the triathlon? Not likely. Sooner or later, you're going to be swimming in rough water. But don't fret: An ability to manage waves can ultimately be an advantage. If you're adept at battling waves, it could be a significant upper hand against less wave-resilient opponents. And, if you ever need to breaststroke away from a shipwreck, a healthy ability to navigate stormy seas could end up being a real lifesaver.
To start, you're going to need to know how to breathe. In the open water, however, an incorrect breathing style could quickly leave you with a stomach full of salt water. That's why open water swimmers need to coordinate breathing with the conditions. If waves are coming in from your right, breathe left. If blinding sun is coming in from your left, breathe right. This might be trickier than you think, especially if you've spent years in the pool breathing to only one side. Before you tackle rough water, go to a pool and swim a few laps while breathing only on the side that you find least comfortable [source: Murphy]. In rough weather, waves, wind and spray also mean that you'll have less of a window in which to pull in air -- so be sure to make every breath count. Right before surfacing, exhale all of the air in your lungs. That way, when you come up for air, you'll be able to breathe in more quickly.
Sometimes, instead of battling the waves, it pays to swim under them. If you get hit by a particularly hard wave, you may be forced to dog paddle to recover, wasting valuable energy in the process. By ducking under those waves like a dolphin, you'll avoid getting jostled often -- and your rough water swims will be much less frustrating [source: Keppeler]. If a wave is relatively small, save energy by simply hopping over it. Or, if it's small enough that you can just crash through it, simply turn sideways and hit the wave with your hip or shoulder. Do it properly, and the wave will simply pass around you.
Warming up before a swim is a good idea in all weather conditions, but it's especially important in rough seas. Get in, splash around, try a test sighting -- anything that will give you a good idea of water temperature, visibility and current. That way, long before the starting gun goes off, you'll be able to adjust your goggles, suit and swim plan as necessary.
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More Great Links
- Allen, Peter. "Frenchman with no arms or legs set to swim the 22 miles across English Channel." June 1, 2010. (July 26, 2010) http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-1282860/Frenchman-arms-legs-set-swim-22-miles-English-Channel.html
- Associated Press. "American, 56, becomes first woman to swim across the Atlantic." Feb. 7, 2007. (July 26, 2010) http://www.thestar.com/news/world/article/584159
- Berg, Jared. "Open Water Swimming for Beginners." June 11, 2009. (July 26, 2010) http://www.tampabay.com/features/fitness/open-water-swimming-offers-an-endless-challenge/1096501
- Bernard, Randy. "Open Water Swim Tips." March 8, 2005. (July 26, 2010) http://www.trifuel.com/training/swim/open-water-swim-tips
- Bernhardt, Gale. "Acclimating Your Body to Cold Water." (July 26, 2010) http://www.active.com/swimming/Articles/Acclimating-Your-Body-to-Cold-Water.htm
- Dean, Penny Lee. "Open Water Swimming." 1998. Human Kinetics. Champaign, IL.
- Gustafson, Mike. "10 Reasons Why Open Water Swimming Rocks." May 20, 2010. (July 26, 2010) http://www.swimnetwork.com/News/Swimming/Blogs/Mike-Gustafson/2010/05/10-Reasons-Why-Open-Water-Swimming-Rocks.aspx
- Hobson, Katherine. "Take a Splash in the Hudson River." Dec. 20, 2007. (July 26, 2010) http://politics.usnews.com/news/50-ways-to-improve-your-life/articles/2007/12/20/take-a-splash-in-the-hudson-river.html
- iSport. "10 Safety Tips for Open Water Swimming." (July 26, 2010) http://swim.isport.com/swimming-guides/10-safety-tips-for-open-water-swimming
- Keppeler, Nan. "Surviving the Unexpected Rough Water Swim." Aug. 5, 2009. (July 26, 2010) http://triathlon.competitor.com/2009/08/training/surviving-the-unexpected-rough-swim_3537
- Koskella, Kevin. "Introduction to Open Water Swimming." March 6, 2007. (July 26, 2010) http://www.trifuel.com/training/swim/introduction-to-open-water-swimming
- Koskella, Kevin. "5 Open Water Swimming Tips." March 13, 2009. (July 26, 2010) http://triswimcoachonline.com/tri/5-open-water-swimming-tips/
- Livingston, Kevin. "How to Draft in Cycling." Sept. 16, 2008. (July 30, 2010) http://www.livestrong.com/video/3808-draft-cycling/
- McNichol, Tom. "Captain Matthew Webb Swims the English Channel." Nov. 17, 2009. (July 27, 2010) http://184.108.40.206/time/specials/packages/article/0,28804,1932261_1932258_1932256,00.html
- Marshall, Naantali. "Open Water - Swimming and Training." (July 26, 2010) http://www.triathlonmag.com.au/clinic/swim/8-open-water-swimming-a-training
- Metters, Jason. "Open Water Drafting." (July 26, 2010) http://www.tri2aspire.com/tips2.htm
- Munatones, Steven. "Key Principles of Open Water Drafting." (July 26, 2010) http://www.active.com/swimming/Articles/Key-Principles-of-Open-Water-Drafting.htm
- Munatones, Steven. "World's Top 100 Open Water Swims." June 15, 2010. (July 26, 2010) http://www.worldstop100openwaterswims.com/
- Munatones, Steven. "Mike Spalding - One Tough Cookie." March 22, 2009. (July 27, 2010) http://10kswim.blogspot.com/2009/03/mike-spalding-one-tough-cookie.html
- Murphy, Sam. "Triathlon skills: how to improve your open-water swimming." April 30, 2009. (July 26, 2010) http://www.guardian.co.uk/sport/2009/may/17/triathlon-improve-open-water-swimming
- Regensburg, Paul. "The World's Best Open Water Swim Locations." March 16, 2010. (July 26, 2010) http://triathlon.competitor.com/2010/03/training/the-worlds-best-open-water-swim-locations_7660
- Sanders, Erica. "Swimming to Antarctica: Just Add Water." Jan. 25, 2004. (July 27, 2010) http://www.doversolo.com/antarctica.htm
- Tomalin, Terry. "Open water swimming offers an endless challenge." May 22, 2010. (July 26, 2010) http://www.tampabay.com/features/fitness/open-water-swimming-offers-an-endless-challenge/1096501
- Walker, John. "Open Water Tips." April 18 ,1995. (July 26, 2010) http://www.hulaman.com/triathlon/open_wtr.html