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How To Be A Fantastic Open Water Swimmer Part 2

The Endurance Store Swim Club provides you with simple swim training plans throughout the winter months. The plan runs October to October and is completely free. We only ask that you pre-register so that your training plans can be emailed directly.

Registration is free and you may unsubscribe at any time from the Swim Club and stop receiving updates. Overview of the swim plan be seen below, but before you start you need to complete a test to set your swim paces, then register and download the sessions. GO HERE to register for swim club.

Where were we?

In last week's blog we discussed the stages of learning and why most age group swimmers have to 'constantly' focus on their technique when swimming. Open water swimming creates it's own issues as there are so many things to distract you, which means that you're not concentrating on what you should be (your stroke). If you missed last week's blog GO HERE and read it first.

What are you thinking about?

So the key thing for open water swimming is that you need to focus Internally. You have to think about yourself and not everything else that's going on around you. As a simple example, let's discuss the steps you can take when lining up for a mass open water start:

1. You need to focus internally so pick something specific to focus on. The easiest thing is to pick a common fault with your stroke as these always get worse under pressure. I pick 2 at the most and my favorites are exhaling fully under water (I find this really helps as exhaling carbon dioxide helps prevent gasping for air and also helps prevent panic attacks) and the other one is a smooth, flowing stroke without pause. My key thoughts at the start are exhale and let it flow..

2. BE AWARE of the switch to external focus, if it happens, calmly note it and then return to internal focus. If I've only swam 20m and some dude is very close and going off course across me then I'm aware of him, I'm probably going to get a bit irritated and my anxiety is likely to rise. If that happens, I've already lost focus on my 2 key points which were exhale and let it flow, instead I'm thinking about this guy cutting across me. At this point it's important to recognise the switch, note that he's there, relax and return to focus internally. Maintaining internal focus is very difficult in certain circumstances but the more time you spend thinking about the external stuff, the slower you are swimming. Focus on the task at hand. 

As I outlined in last week's blog, I'm still at stage 3 of the learning process and I have to think about my stroke technique all the time. It's really difficult to master internal focus and during an open water event it is inevitable that you will shift from internal to external several times (including every single knock and bump).

There are so many external factors which can distract you during an open water swim event, consider each of the following:

1. Adrenaline / nerves on race morning, coupled with feelings of anxiety
2. Your friends and family shouting as you search for them in the crowd
3. People next to you, who seem more prepared that you...
4. The water is freezing and it's murky, not welcoming at all...
5. You position yourself on the start line, anxiety is now at an all time high
6. The gun goes and everyone thrashes for the first 200m at a ridiculous pace
7. Someone grabs your leg and another pushes down on your back
8. You swallow a mouthful of water and come up gasping for air
9. Your goggles have come off
10. And exhale... and let it flow... do you get my point?

You need a plan

The first thing you need to consider is 'a plan'. How are you going to approach the swim, what are your key points to focus on and what will you do if you get interrupted. As noted in last week's blog, this is something of particular importance for those who suffer panic attacks or fail to enjoy open water swimming due to the density of swimmers. Panic attacks are generally caused by a build up of carbon dioxide (not exhaling fully) and increased anxiety due to external focus. You need to notice that your heart rate and anxiety are increasing and then do something about it. If you aren't aware that your anxiety is increasing, you may only realise when it's too late.

Next time you're in the lake, try these techniques. Simply being aware of your focus is a big step in the right direction and ultimately if you learn to control it, you can use it with great effect to enhance your performances.

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