Waterfest 2016 - Give it a Splash!

If you tried your hand (shoulders, knees and toes!) at this years’ Swim For a Mile, you may have caught the swimming bug! Do not fret- we have your next challenge ready! Swim Ireland presents; Swim For a Mile- Open Water, as part of Waterfest 2016, which will also host the National 5km & 10km Championships! It is sure to be a great day out for the whole family! This is the second year of the programme and is a great change of pace from the work you have done in the pool over the last few months!

It is invigorating to continually challenge yourself, Waterfest will do just this! Challenging your body and mind to enter the outdoors and outside of your comfort zone! Now, open water swimming definitely differs to pool swimming, some would say it transforms into another sport- having said that, if you swam the mile- you can definitely do the open water version! By now you have built up your confidence in the water, think back to those scary, anxious feelings you experienced when registering for SFAM, you are feeling them now as you consider Waterfest aren’t you? In that case you should also remember the feelings you experienced when you touched the wall and completed your swim; bad ass! Ecstatic, surprised, joyful, maybe even relieved but definitely bad ass! It’s time to take it to the next level!

As always, Swim Ireland will be there to guide you, so do not worry you are in safe hands! The key to making the transition to open water swimming is to take it slow! Ask anyone who swims outdoors and they will tell you, it is not a case of cannon balling into the sea/river and splashing on your merry way! There involves a great deal of caution, as if you are not smart it can be dangerous- luckily we are here to tell you the do’s and don’ts!

Don’t Rush into the Water.

Take your time get used to the temperature change, the initial shock if you aren’t used to that good ole Irish water is quite something! But once those muscles start working your brain will soon move onto other happenings! In all seriousness though, taking your time to become accustomed to the temperature is very important, it will give your lungs time to acclimatise which is vital- ever felt that feeling of OMG I can’t breathe it is so cold! Your lungs start to tighten and you think- “yeap that’s enough for one year!” Taking your time to wade into the water will reduce that shock and you will soon find it strangely soothing!  It also gives your muscles an opportunity to prepare, if you jump right in you may pull a muscle or waste energy needed for later! So, Breathe 1, 2,3 take a step, breathe 1,2,3 take a step, 1,2,3, step and look the water is up to your chin already!

Don’t Swim Alone.

Even experienced swimmers may be out of their element in the open water, so grab a friend and stay safe! If you are a newcomer to open water, start by swimming close to the shore, so it is deep enough that your hands don’t touch the sand as you swim but also shallow enough for you to stand. Once you feel more comfortable, go out a little deeper! If you cannot find someone to swim with, bring a friend to walk the beach/riverside to keep an eye out. It all sounds very daunting, but in open water, safety comes first! Besides swimming with a group can be much more fun!

Don’t Panic.

Just like Swim For a Mile, it is not about beating Tom, Dick or Harry, it is about completing the swim and getting that oh so addictive buzz! Focus on your breathing and body position, it will feel a tad strange when changing from the pool to open water, as the ever famous “feel” of the water has been altered due to the lack of those lovely lane ropes that break up waves in the pool! So again we bring it back to your breathing and body position, making sure not to come up too high as if climbing a hill to breathe! Relax and become familiar with these strange conditions!

Do Come Prepared!

Bring all the warm clothes you own! Joking aside, you will be on a high after your session, having braved the outdoors! But if you want to enjoy your next session, you must dry off and wrap up as soon as you can, to keep your heat in and keep you healthy! Towels, thermals, socks, hat and a nice cuppa! Otherwise that high will disappear quite quickly! Don’t forget to bring liquids to drink pre and post session, as well as a swim cap to keep some heat in during your swim- wetsuits are optional based on individual preference! 

Do take as many breaks as you need!

It will take some time to become accustomed to swimming outside; suddenly you have no sense of direction, body/space awareness or time! It is all part of the fun! If you get confused, stop and look around to get refocused, if you get overwhelmed stop and float to relax and enjoy the sway of the water!

Do Play the Game.

Open water swimming is less about the time, but more centred around tactics; swimming smart so to speak! Figuring out how to conserve energy, swim straight, keep with the pack and get the most out of your swim! Swim somewhere familiar, if it’s new have a look around and a splash around, so you can gain some sort of compass to the area and depths etc.

Do Enjoy the Adventure!

It is something different, a new way to challenge yourself, keep your body & mind healthy and not to mention the social benefits, swimming groups are known as a different breed of folk! (Much more fun!) Register for Waterfest 2016 and experience the adventure!


Bethany Carson