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Exercise Outdoors: Open-Water Swimming

Posted May 30 2012 2:49pm

Open water swimming tip Now that summer is on its way, it's time to take your indoor fitness routines outdoors. We'll show you how.

Tip #2: Overcome your fear of sharks and anacondas, and take a dip in the sea or a lake.

For those of us lucky enough to live near warmer bodies of water — or for those who don't mind donning a wetsuit — open-water swimming can invigorate your workouts or, at the very least, provide some exercise between bouts of sunbathing.  

It can be daunting if you've never done it before, but there's no need to have triathlon goals to enjoy swimming laps outside. Here are five tips to calm your nerves and push off shore:

  1. Have the right gear. This holds true whether you're a seasoned triathlete or a novice open-water swimmer. Waterproof sunblock, the correct wetsuit, goggles (bonus if they're anti-fog), and a swim cap will not only  keep you warm and sun-protected, the right gear will help you feel more in control of your swim, visible to lifeguards, and less likely to panic, and, thus, tire out. If you're just starting out, a pair of flippers and a light lifejacket can help keep you buoyant in your new outdoor environment. 
  2. Start small or shallow. Why go all deep-sea on your first swim? Try swimming parallel to the beach in a sheltered area of water, one with a shallow, sandy bottom, no waves, and an easy entry and exit. Swimming in a shallow lake means that you're going to be dealing with a sludgy bottom and freshwater weeds and kelp, which give some of us the heebies, but which also brings us to #3.
  3. Accept the fact that other things live in water. This might be the hardest to get over, and it might be enough to keep you away from open water. There's no real getting around the fact that you'll likely come into contact with fish, plants, and debris — especially because you're the invader, not them — but if you're going outside, might as well convene with nature, right?
  4. Bring a buddy, especially one with a canoe or kayak . As with many activities, when it comes to open water, there is safety in numbers. Whether your friend is swimming with you, or rowing by your side with extra gear and water onboard, having a buddy — especially a more experienced swimmer — can be an important and fun part of the experience.
  5. Take it easy, and enjoy. The less you panic, the more you can concentrate on your technique, and the less energy and oxygen you'll expend (and the more fun you'll have).

Advice for landlubbers: Learn how to green your pool on Green Life!

--Image from iStock / Stasiek Pytel 

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