With the increase in open water swimming in the country Swim England would like to encourage more clubs to support participation in open water. It’s important to make sure coaches have the right knowledge and experience to do this safely with the same level of professionalism that is achieved in a pool environment.
Open Water swimming is a great activity but it carries different and potentially greater risks than pool-based swimming therefore Swim England has issued the following guidance for clubs and coaches who do or wish to engage in open water swimming:
View guidance published June 2019.
FAQ Information Views: 658 Keywords: Created: 28.06.2019 Updated: 28.06.2019
It is essential that swimmers prepare and train well in advance for any open water swimming event they choose to enter. Ideally, the training site environmental conditions should be as close to the competition conditions as possible to include water temperature, salinity and water motion (currents and waves).
It is suggested swimmers swim the race distance for shorter races without stopping and 85 per cent of the distance for races over 10km one month to two weeks prior to the race. This is in order to gain the necessary self-confidence and to determine feeding times, food items and support personnel needed.
No one should undertake any competitive open water event unless physically fit, in excellent health, and fully expect to finish. It is advisable for any person undertaking any athletic event to be checked by a qualified medical expert. This is especially important in distance swimming.
The swimmer is responsible for all personal support needs.
FAQ Information Views: 787 Keywords: Created: 30.03.2019 Updated: 30.03.2019
In open water, anchored boats will always, in still conditions, point into the water flow. The bow will point into the flow.
In windy conditions an anchored boat will show similar wind direction.
In wind and tide conditions a handler can ascertain the direction of tidal flow along with an expected variance caused by the wind.
Always allow a little more up wind so that miscalculations do not cause the swimmer to swim directly into both tide and wind.
FAQ Information Views: 757 Keywords: Created: 30.03.2019 Updated: 30.03.2019
Both swimmer and coach should be aware of any specific safety requirements to be implemented during the race.
As a general rule, open water swimmers will approach race day in a similar way to pool swimmers. These additional points may be useful:
- pre-race meal and fluids should be about 2 hours before competition;
- review signals to be used between support crew and swimmer;
- have adequate food and fluids in the support craft (keep them in water-tight containers prior to use);
- have adequate first aid supplies, including blankets (i.e. if the race is terminated due to hypothermia) in the support craft;
- be aware of any course hazards; and
- take precautions against the loss of body heat and protect against sunburn.
It is often helpful for the handler in the support craft to have a large plastic board and waterproof markers for writing messages (i.e. stroke rate, split times, etc.) to relay to the swimmer. Feeding stops should be well rehearsed. Allow the boat to approach the swimmer when feeding is signalled (don't take the swimmer off course by making him/her swim to the boat).
Prior to the race, decide on a strategy for the start; it may be impossible for the support craft to move into a parallel position with the swimmer until the pack of swimmers thins out.
FAQ Information Views: 745 Keywords: Created: 30.03.2019 Updated: 30.03.2019
Probably the most important method of knowing a swimmer’s own handling of a swim is his/her stroke rating. All swimmers must, before undertaking an open water swim, know their comfort zone in relation to stroke rating. During training all swimmers should have swum in open water. From these swims, stroke per minute readings should have been taken. During a race, the prime requisite to the swimmer is to know their stroke rating. As a reference point, between 76 and 88 strokes seems to be the comfort zone, depending on the size of the swimmer.
Hypothetically, from their training, 83 strokes per minute would have a swimmer holding 5 minutes for 400 metres, 80/81 is down a bit to a possible 5 minutes 5 seconds, and 85/86 is too fast at around 4 minutes 55 seconds and must be slightly pulled back. Just those few strokes too early can be paid for dearly later on.
However, coaches / handlers need to be aware that technique and stroke ratings depend very heavily on environmental conditions.
FAQ Information Views: 762 Keywords: Created: 30.03.2019 Updated: 30.03.2019
Swimmers preparing for open water events usually combine pool workouts with open water swimming training sessions.
While pool training includes a number of elements not required in open water (i.e. such as turns and rest intervals), it's still necessary as a means to closely monitor speed over set distances. Open water training is necessary as a specific means of race preparation; the primary skills acquired during this phase of training are:
- navigational skill,
- ongoing feeding and fluid replenishment,
- acclimatisation to rough water conditions, and
- co-ordination with race support staff (i.e. handlers and escort craft).
The proportion of work done in the pool and open water may vary from one swimmer to another. Available training time and conditions usually dictate the mixture.
Pool training will usually concentrate on aerobic base, aerobic endurance, or critical velocity training outcomes. High lactate-producing training sets are generally not required; however, some maximum speed training is advised. Speed over a short distance is often useful in open water so that the swimmer is able to break away from, or pass, a swimmer. Naturally, training volume must be high to prepare the swimmer for long competitive distances.
Therefore, the recovery skills used by pool swimmers are even more important for open water swimmers. Coaches must carefully co-ordinate the application of long endurance training sets (and critical speed sets) with long aerobic base training sets, to allow sufficient recovery from session to session.
The mechanics of freestyle swimming are basically the same for open water swimming specialists; however, because water conditions may be rough the swimmer may need to modify his / her technique. The swimmer may need to turn the head and breathe under the armpit to shield the mouth, and recover the arms higher over the water. A two beat kick is commonly used to conserve energy. Open water swimmers generally have a higher stroke rate (i.e. strokes per minute) than pool swimmers because of a slightly shorter stroke length (i.e. distance travelled per stroke cycle).
Open water swimming training sessions usually employ total swimming time and stroke rate as the major determinants. Since it's difficult to measure swimming velocity, stroke rate is used to define the level of intensity. The coach should plan training sessions using the tempo that will be used under race conditions. Rather than planning interval swims (as done for pool training) the coach should plan tempo swims. For example: 30 minutes of swimming at 66 strokes per minute, followed by 15 minutes at 76 strokes per minute, etc.
Training sets are then constructed on the basis of stroke rate and time swum. If a group of swimmers are being trained in open water, the lead position should be rotated regularly.
FAQ Information Views: 747 Keywords: Created: 30.03.2019 Updated: 30.03.2019
Hypothermia is a condition in which the body's core temperature drops too low. The body can be protected from excess heat loss by wearing a swim cap to insulate the head, and ear plugs. Body parts that may become irritated, as a result of repeated rubbing (i.e. the neck, armpit, groin) also should be covered with a lubricant.
The symptoms of hypothermia are:
- uncoordinated swimming movements;
- disorientation when stopping to feed; and
- failure to respond to commands from handlers.
The coach should be aware of these signs and be prepared to end training sessions when hypothermia is suspected.
Hyperthermia: Training in warm water also presents problems. The dangers of hyperthermia are equally well documented and can involve the central nervous system and cardiac system collapse. The warning symptoms of hyperthermia are the same as those for hypothermia. The training session or competition must be terminated with signs of hyperthermia.
Sunburn: The risk of sunburn is a real danger that must be addressed, and a maximum protection sunscreen should be applied before training. High SPF levels are beneficial as well as considering Zinc Oxide as a complete block. Reapplication of the screen may be necessary for long sessions. Training in warm water may require more frequent breaks to replenish fluid.
The risk of jellyfish stings is greater in warm water areas and knowledge of the local conditions and emergency treatment procedures are essential.
A final health concern is the exposure to infectious diseases. Open water swimming in lakes or rivers may carry with it some risk of exposure to pollutants in the water. The swimmer should keep immunisations up-to-date (i.e. hepatitis and tetanus in particular, a gamma globulin injection may be required). The coach should consult with the local health authority to obtain information on water quality.
FAQ Information Views: 734 Keywords: Created: 30.03.2019 Updated: 30.03.2019
Swimmers should wear bright coloured swim caps, preferably not white. Yellow or orange is considered ideal.
In bad weather keeping a swimmer in sight is mandatory, and having a contrasting swim cap colour to the sea and the waves helps. A good torch with fresh batteries is essential with the onset of night. Glow sticks both on the side of the boat and out on the swimmer’s costume should be available.
FAQ Information Views: 758 Keywords: Created: 30.03.2019 Updated: 30.03.2019
If you are new to open water swimming learn some basics in a still(ish) water venue like a commercially run lake or reservoir. Things like spotting and deep water starts. You could join a local group that will teach you these. 220 Tri’s list of venues is a good place to start.
Always seek local advice, ideally swim at a lifeguarded beach and take notice of any flags or signage. Check out the RNLI website to find lifeguarded beaches.
Never swim alone. There are lots of organised groups that swim regularly with qualified safety cover.
Plan where and when you will be entering and exiting the water and have a backup plan.
Adjust your course early to take account for any currents that may push you off course.
Make sure you have a means of calling for help – always carry a pealess whistle on your wetsuit to attract attention. Three loud blasts would get the attention of a lifeguard. If you are undertaking a longer swim, carry a radio or mobile phone in your tow float to call for help.
If you are taking part in an organised event, such as Swim England’s Open Water Festival, or a training session, listen carefully to the race briefing and safety advice.
If you do get in trouble don’t panic. Roll on to your back, signal for help using your whistle and holding a hand up in the air.
You can find out more information specifically about rip currents here.
FAQ Information Views: 735 Keywords: Created: 30.03.2019 Updated: 30.03.2019
The British Swimming Officials Group has issued the following guidance relative to the suitability of Wetsuits in Open Water Competition:
“This rule change has been brought about to increase safety for competitors in water between 16˚- 18˚ (compulsory) and 18˚ - 20˚ (optional). In accordance with other swimsuit rules British Swimming will conform to the intention of the rule. We do not provide interpretation of FINA rules – only FINA as the governing body can interpret their own rules.
However, to provide guidance, the discussion to date has been around what would constitute coverage of the shoulder. An informed view is that to ensure complete coverage of the shoulder the wetsuit must include a sleeve, as a minimum polo or ‘T’ shirt length covering the full shoulder and upper arm in order to maintain shoulder cover during swimming, full arm to wrist has been suggested although elbows do not feature in the rule, whereas coverage of knees as a mid-limb joint in respect of leg length of a wetsuit is.
It is expected that officials will apply common sense when dealing with references to neck, wrists and ankles. As in all Open Water events held in the home counties of England Scotland and Wales the Chief Referee will have responsibility for the overall management of the rules.”
FAQ Information Views: 1334 Keywords: Created: 02.02.2018 Updated: 02.02.2018
Swimming outdoors has its challenges but if it’s at an organised swimming venue with qualified coaches it can be great fun!
Taking your club swimmers into open water will give them the challenge of trying something new. It lets them overcome any fears they may have and be part of a team.
It also gives long distance swimmers the opportunity to experience a different aspect to racing, new techniques, and test their abilities.
Some swimmers who aren’t reaching their potential in a pool often find their feet and flourish in an outdoor environment. Providing new opportunities for your swimmers can help to retain interest and boost enjoyment.
FAQ Information Views: 1256 Keywords: Created: 10.02.2018 Updated: 10.02.2018
Open water swimming could be a great new way to engage club swimmers. And swimming coaches can upskill in order to deliver it safely.
Your first step is to complete the Open Water Coaching Award through the Institute of Swimming. There are lots of venues and dates to choose from and tutors are experienced and knowledgeable.
The lakes used for courses are all wonderful places to have a classroom! Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s called Level 2 – this is just where it sits on the qualification framework. It’s for all Level 2 coaches and teachers, and above. They give you all the knowledge you need to assess the safety of and organise an open water session professionally.
Remember open water swimming is a discipline that challenges the body and the mind. For a coach it requires you to take your athletes beyond what they are capable of in the pool. The tactical side of the discipline is as important as the physical.
FAQ Information Views: 1284 Keywords: Created: 10.02.2018 Updated: 10.02.2018
Completing an open water swim is a fantastic achievement. But before you dive in there are a few open water swimming questions you need to ask yourself.
It’s easy to forget something as you take the plunge for the first time. Think of these open water swimming questions as a preparation checklist.
If you can’t answer yes to all of them think twice about taking part. After all, it’s about having fun but keeping safe. So, here’ are the top nine questions
- Do you know who you are swimming with? It can be dangerous to swim open water on your own. Always swim with someone and know who they are. It’s a good idea to get into open water with a friend.
- Do you know the weather conditions? Weather can play a huge part in the difficulty of open water swimming conditions. If you feel unsafe, don’t get in.
- Do you know the route you are taking? Seems like a fairly simple one but you MUST plan your route carefully and make sure someone else knows where you are going.
- Do you know where you will get in and out of the water? Again, this may not be your biggest worry but you should plan where you are entering and exiting the water.
- Have you practised swimming in your wetsuit? Wearing a wetsuit changes your swimming stroke slightly so it’s best to practice in a pool beforehand.
- Do you know the temperature of the water? Swimsuits keep you warm but the water will still be very cold. Get used to it slowly. If you feel your body getting too cold, get out.
- Do you know what you will eat before and after your swim? Exercise and cold water will sap your energy. Time your food for energy boosts.
- Do you have goggles and lubricant? Swimming in lakes, rivers and seas there is poor water visibility. Wear goggles. If you’re swimming in a group, tuck your goggle strap into your swim hat so they aren’t knocked out of position by accident. Lubricant isn’t essential but it’s a very useful for putting around the neck to avoid chaffing from your wetsuit.
- If you are swimming a loch, have you asked about weirs? Tide times are crucial to know when learning about the best times to swim in a loch. Be aware of rip currents and what to do if you become caught in one.
FAQ Information Views: 1096 Keywords: Created: 07.04.2018 Updated: 07.04.2018