Preparing For Your First Outdoor Swim


Outdoor swimming may seem a scary prospect at first, but all it takes is a little bit of preparation and taking on these essential hints and tips - and you’ll be hitting the lakes in no time.

Buddy Up

Once you’ve decided where and when, you need to think about who with. By all means, go on your own or with another complete beginner if you’re going to a commercial venue or a supervised introductory section where you’ll be properly looked after. Try out our Great Swim Local programmes around the UK.

If not, you should go with someone whose swimming experience and competence you can trust.


Next, make sure you have everything with you that you might need. This could be just a towel, although we recommend a little more than that. Test it all fits in advance and that your goggles don’t leak.

Eat Right

Remember when you’d go swimming as a child and your parents would be telling you not to eat just before swimming? Well, you’re older and wiser now, and the same rules apply.

Organise your meals so you are neither hungry when you swim nor bloated from having just eaten, and make sure you have drunk enough but not too much.

Your Exit Plan

When you change for swimming, pack and store your clothes so you can dress quickly and easily afterwards. If you come out shivering, you don’t want to waste time looking for your thermal underwear.

Now, make your way to the water!


There’s a little more to it than just diving straight in like they do in the movies!

How you get in will depend on where you are. If there is a beach of some kind, wade in slowly, taking care where you place your feet. It will feel cold. Don’t worry about it. You’ll soon warm up.

When you’re ready, while still within your depth, try briefly dipping your face in the water to see how it feels. Then try floating on your back or doing a few strokes of head-up breaststroke.

If you have to get into deep water off a bank or pontoon, it’s slightly different. It’s a good idea to first sit on the pontoon and dangle your feet in the water. When you’re ready, slide in feet first while keeping your hands on the pontoon. Keep one hand on the pontoon until you’re ready to tread water or move away slowly using head-up breaststroke.

Take it easy and don’t rush anything!


We’d recommend keeping your first outdoor swim to about 10 to 15 minutes and not even worrying or measuring how far you go. Even if you’re a brilliant pool swimmer, our advice is still to keep it short and sweet – no more than 30 minutes.

Swimming outside is more tiring than the pool because you don’t have walls to grab hold of every now and then.

You don’t need to set yourself any distance challenges at this stage. Just do enough to feel comfortable in the water and leave yourself wanting more.

For more outdoor swimming inspiration and training advice, visit



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