Training tips for your first outdoor swim


Congratulations - you’ve taken the plunge! You’ve signed up for your first open water swim event and now for the fun bit - training.

If you’re new to outdoor swimming, the idea of stepping straight into the sea or a lake can be a bit daunting. Never fear though: follow our top training tips and you’ll soon be in shape to conquer the waters!

Get a goal. A wise person once said that a goal is the first step in turning the invisible into the visible, and here at Great Swim we’ve got to agree. Whether you just want to hit the magic 1-mile marker or you’re aiming to beat your best ever time front-crawling the whole way around, you need to decide, write it down and make a commitment. That way, you’ll stand the best possible chance of making your dream a reality.

Plan your week ahead. “How often should I be swimming?” is a question we’re often asked. The truth is everyone’s different, but our official Great Swim plans feature three swims per week – a great number of sessions to aim for. However, getting your kit together and getting to the pool can take a bit more preparation than other activities, so make sure you plan your week in advance to fit in swim time. 

Don’t forget rest days. It’s important to build in rest days, particularly as a novice swimmer. In the early stages of your new regime you’ll need time off to recuperate and recover - remember, it takes time to build fitness!

Clockwatching. At first, focus on time spent in the pool rather than distance. Aim for around 30 minutes per swimming session – and more if you can spare it – to help build your stamina. If you’re recovering or you haven’t swum for a while, shorter sessions can also be helpful as long as they’re focused. Use these swims to go steady, increase time and distance gradually and get a ‘feel’ for the water. 

Hydration stations. Just because you’re *in* the water doesn’t stop you from getting dehydrated. For longer swims, make sure you bring a water bottle with you and leave it on the side of the pool. 

Different strokes. Varying your stroke stops you getting bored, improves your general swimming skills and builds confidence. Your warm up, swim down and recovery swims are perfect opportunities to introduce other strokes. Front crawl, breaststroke and back crawl are all great options… And if you fancy throwing in some butterfly in there too, then go for it!

And speaking of warm ups…We don’t mean to nag, but make sure you warm up and cool down every - single - time. Just take 3-5 minutes at either end of your swim to focus on gently building or gradually decreasing your heart rate. You can thank us later.

A little help from my friends. Many open water swimmers rave about the sense of community and the friendships they’ve found through swimming. Bring along a friend or two and inject a bit of fun into training - you’ll never look back!


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