05 February 2021

POOL vs OPEN WATER SWIMMING - DIFFERENCES, BENEFITS & PREPARATION

POOL vs OPEN WATER SWIMMING - DIFFERENCES, BENEFITS & PREPARATION

Have you ever thought about getting out of the pool and diving headfirst into open water? If you have already taken the plunge, we can imagine you have noticed distinct differences between pool swimming vs that of the various lakes, rivers and oceans you might have explored.

If you haven’t thought about it, or you’re unsure where to start, we can help! Throughout this blog post, we will cover the differences, benefits and preparation you need to know before embarking on your open water journey and if you’ve already kick-started open water swimming this will help provide you with more valuable information before you head back out there.

HOW TO GET STARTED WITH OPEN WATER SWIMMING

Making the jump from the pool to open water can be daunting, so don’t head straight into the ocean to start with! Inland lakes or rivers are great to get a taste of what to expect and will help you relax. If you’re new to the open water it’s a good idea to swim with a more experienced swimmer or find a local swim group who swim regularly outdoors. There are also many organised open water swimming venues around with their own safety cover.

Investing in a good (not necessarily expensive) wetsuit is also imperative for a successful open water swimming journey. Ensure that the wetsuit fits your body properly so it is comfortable and allows for easy arm/shoulder movement. Some retailers will run swim test services where you can try before you buy.

WHAT ARE THE DIFFERENCES BETWEEN THE POOL AND OPEN WATER?

Water Temperature The main difference between the pool and open water is the temperature. Indoor pool water is regularly monitored and it does not matter what time, day or season it is, you will always find the conditions in the water are the same. Of course, this is completely different when it comes to open water and you can encounter a variety of weather conditions, waves, currents, varying temperatures (even in the same swimming spots!) A good wetsuit is important in relation to this as it will protect you from colder temperatures and make you more buoyant (although in salt water for some pool swimmers this can feel too buoyant!)..

Vision Your vision tends to remain the same when in an indoor pool environment and importantly you have a black line on the bottom of the pool to follow as the water has clarity. However, the clarity of the water in open water conditions can be different depending on where you choose to swim. You will also need to ‘sight’ in open water, this means raising your head slightly to see where you are heading; having a ‘marker’ in the distance is a good way to navigate. For a more detailed advice on sighting Swim England offer some tips here.

You may need to breathe more in choppier open water as well as sight more…it can be very easy to go off course if there is a current.

HEALTH BENEFITS

There are a great number of benefits to swimming in open water so we really would encourage you to give it a try!

Immersing yourself in cold water increases your white blood cell count which helps boost the immune system and over time, cold water has been shown to improve circulation. You must however gradually get your body used to colder water. This article from Outdoor Swimmer has some great tips on winter swimming. https://outdoorswimmer.com/blogs/6-tips-for-cold-water-swimming

A chemical-free experience is also a key attribute to how you can benefit from open water swimming. Chlorine heads into the body primarily through inhaling it, which is why many swimmers can suffer from sore throats or coughs. It can also prove to be quite irritating on the skin if exposed to it for prolonged periods of time. Whilst out in the open water, swimmers have the advantage of breathing in the fresh air around them and feeling the breeze on their faces, allowing deeper breathing, opening up the lungs and bringing in more oxygen.

The experience of being outdoors and taking in beautiful scenery can do wonders for mental health. Whilst in the open water, you can reflect on how far you’ve swum in your natural surroundings rather than being restricted to the journey of going wall to wall in a pool.

PREPARATION

It is incredibly important to prepare both physically and mentally for an open water swim. You cannot stand up in the middle of the sea or river if you’ve become tired. It is important to try and prepare for this mentally as well as the possibility of not being able to finish a race or swim should weather conditions or water conditions make the swim extremely difficult.

Taking into account some of the aspects mentioned earlier in the post, it is important to physically prepare for open water swimming. The Big Blue Swim team are avid open water swimmers. Our swimming trips take place on some of the most beautiful islands of Greece, where there is no need to be apprehensive about murky, choppy or cold swims. The crystal clear, warm waters across the islands of Crete, Lefkada, Ithaca and Santorini are perfect for a wonderful open water journey and ideal for first time open water swimmers. Explore our website to see how you can join us on an unforgettable experience!

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