Swimming is a vital life skill

Swimming is a vital life skill

amanzi_magazine_raynard_tissink_open_water_swimming (5)amanzi_magazine_raynard_tissink_open_water_swimming (1)Swimming is a vital life skill and one which should be taught to all toddlers and young children. Children who participate in swimming at a young level have so much more confidence later on and more opportunities in a variety of sports throughout their schooling career, such as water polo, triathlon, biathlon and life- saving.  Swimming is a fantastic way to stay fit, injury free, healthy and for kids to get outdoors.

Open water swimming is becoming very popular and is an excellent alternative to the monotony of a swimming pool.

There are many open water races to choose from varying from lake or dam swims to sea swims, and of varying distances for the different ages.

If you’re sufficiently prepared, there is no need to panic or be scared of open water swimming.

Yes, the swim start can be quite frantic, with lots of people starting together. There is no black line to follow on the bottom of the pool – instead you’re faced with muddy, murky water or waves to get through.

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Over-coming any fear and learning to relax is vital in ensuring a smooth and efficient swim. As soon as you panic or tense up – your stroke will shorten and you end up rushing through the

stroke, fighting the water, gasping for air and wasting energy.

Swimming technique is not something you can teach yourself. You cannot correct yourself, if you don’t know what you are doing wrong.

saying ‘Practise makes perfect’, is true, but you need to ensure correct technique first.The old Here are a few tips to help prepare you for an open water swim:

  • First off, I would suggest finding a swim coach and booking a few private lessons. This is a great advantage as your coach will be able to correct any    technique problems and thereby help make you more efficient in the water.
  • Secondly, join a squad. Swimming is a lonely sport, but having company between sets will make it easier and more enjoyable.
  • Squad swimming also improves your speed. It’s very easy to plod up and down if you’re swimming on your own, but swimming in a squad will see you pushing harder to stay with stronger swimmers.Set days and times for squad sessions will help maintain consistency and structure in your programme.If you are unable to join a swim squad, include variety in your swim sessions. Use a pull buoy, paddles and fins. Do drills, kicking, swim at different intensities, do shorter sprints and longer, endurance sets. You will never get faster if you just get in and swim 80 lengths at the same slow, continuous speed every day.

Open Water swimming is totally different to pool swimming and therefore you need to train in the open water in order to be competent at it.

  • A wetsuit is not a necessity but it does help. Not only will the wetsuit keep you warm, but it will also help with buoyancy, thereby keeping your body in a better position in the water, making you faster.
  • Practise swimming in your wetsuit before race day as it can feel quite restrictive at first.
  • If you live at the coast, get into the sea at least once a week. Practise diving out through the waves. Diving under the waves prevents you from being thrown around like a tumble weed. Once you’ve mastered this technique, it becomes so much easier to get out into the open water.
  • Practise body-surfing back out to shore again.
  • Do interval repeats, where you do beach starts and swim out for, say 150m, coming back out onto the beach again.
  • If you are inland, try get into a dam or lake regularly, so as to build your confidence in murky water.
  • There is NO black line to follow or crystal clear water to swim in. You cannot rely on everyone around you to swim straight, and you need to be comfortable with looking forward for the turnaround buoy whilst swimming.  Practise lifting your head to the front and looking for the BUOY. I suggest that on every 4th to 6th stroke you look to the front to make sure you are swimming on course. The easiest way to do this, is whilst swimming your normal freestyle, when you turn your head to the side to breathe, simply look up and forward before putting your head back down into the water. You can practice this in the pool, by putting an object (water-bottle) at the bottom of your lane, and maybe 2 – 3 times per length, looking forward and focusing on the bottle. Lifting your head to sight will push your legs down, so be aware of keeping your kick strong and your stroke long.
  • If you’re a weaker swimmer, don’t stand in the front or middle of the pack at the start of the swim. You will end up having the hordes swimming straight over you. Stand at the back and on the sides. Try get as clear a path as possible.
  • Make sure you know where the turnaround buoys are positioned. In your warm up, try find a taller object on the shore line that lines up with the buoys. Depending on the conditions of the sea, the waves may prevent you from being able to see the buoys at water level, but if you know to head towards a specific building or pylon lined up with the buoy, then you are still on the correct route.
  • Learn to swim in the slipstream of the swimmer in front of you. Let them break the rough water for you, making your path smooth, easier and faster. Stay right on their feet and let them pull you along. But try not to touch their feet on each stroke – or you may get a foot in your face.

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These few tips should help with your preparation for the open water swim. If you put in the work and the right kind of sessions, you’ll approach the swim with confidence and enthusiasm.

Visit the Raynard Tissink Coaching Academy for more information on personalized Training Programs to help you achieve your best possible result.



Natalie Tissink

Author: AmanziMag

Promoting and celebrating Aquatic sports, safety and efficiency. Spreading advice, inspiration and news relating to the healthiest sport that has the most potential to educate the many South Africans who still fear water.

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