FEATURES,  View from the Water

“I’m doing an Ironman tomorrow: can you teach me to swim?”

If you want some cheap entertainment ask a swimming coach to regale you with some their stories. The “I’m doing an Ironman tomorrow: can you teach me to swim?” is not fictional, although it might be slightly exaggerated. The reality is that some people turn up to events with only minimal preparation. We’re not picking on triathletes here. We’ve seen people at mass participation swims unwrapping brand new wetsuits and putting them on backwards.
Clearly, we’ve all got to start somewhere, but a mass participation swim or a competitive triathlon might not be the best place for your first-time open water experience. We’re not the first or only ones to warn against this but still people continue to do it.
In the particular example here, the (non-)swimmer concerned apparently didn’t even want to get in the water but expected the coach to pass on sufficient information through a land-based demonstration to steer them safely through a 3.8km swim, and exit with enough energy to cycle 112 miles and run a marathon.
You don’t know whether to be awestruck by the over-confidence or dumbstruck by the incompetence.
Why do people do this? Is it because they’ve watched top-level athletes making swimming look effortless? Or do people simply underestimate how tough open water racing can be?
Whatever the case, we hope and trust our readers do not fall into this category. Besides, it seems that people who approach the sport in this way have somehow missed one of the main attractions of open water: the joy of swimming outside and the pleasure of the journey towards your swimming event.
We do feel that’s where some triathletes miss out. If you see the water purely as a barrier to surmount in order to reach your beloved bicycle, you’re unlikely to experience the full delights swimming has to offer nor are you likely to reach your full speed potential.
If you’re new to open water swimming please take your time to build your confidence and skills before throwing yourself into a race. Swim outside as often as possible to familiarise yourself with different conditions and temperatures. Learn to love the water. If you need the assistance of a coach, ask them two months ahead of your planned race, not two days, otherwise you might find your story reported here.

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I created Outdoor Swimmer in 2011 (initially as H2Open Magazine) as an outlet for my passion for swimming outdoors. I've been a swimmer and outdoor swimmer for as long as I remember. Swimming has made a huge difference to my life and I want to share its joys and benefits with as many people as possible. I am also the author of Swim Wild & Free: A Practical Guide to Swimming Outdoors 365 a Year and I provide one-to-one support to swimmers through Swim Mentoring.