Getting Started In The Open Water

Getting Started In The Open Water

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

From 10 years old to 66, open water swimmers explain how they like to start their workouts in the pool and open water:

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How do you start your daily workouts in the pool?

James Savage [shown above]: In the pool, I start with 1000-yard warm up. Then I do a 250 kick, 250 pull, and a 500 free. Then we do sprints.

Cristian Vergara: I will have a workout in mind, which will depend on my next goal. Always start the workout with a warm-up set.

Bruckner Chase [shown on left]: Reluctantly.

Tuomas Kaario: Usually I stretch and do some warm-up before entering the pool. Then, depends on training, I swim from 1 to 3 hours

Adrian Sarchet: On automatic pilot. Because I work long hours, I have to cram training in at the beginning and the end of the day. I usually wake up about 800 metres into the early morning session wondering how I got to the pool.

Capri Djatiasmoro: Jump right in and relax with a 500 or 600 yard warm-up.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How do you start in the open water?

James Savage: In open water, it just depends. I swim in a reservoir and usually my warm-up is from the boat launch to the dam which is roughly 1000 yards. I take it slow and easy to get used to the water temperature, get my muscles warmed up, and figure out the waves, the wind, and what direction I am going to go once I reach the dam.

Cristian Vergara: I will have a distance in mind. Normally I start a little fast and then settle into a pace.

Bruckner Chase: Always have a plan whether it’s long distance, tempo work or sprints. Regardless it’s an easy 10 – 15 minutes.

Tuomas Kaario: Actually almost the same depending water temperature.

Adrian Sarchet: I only usually get to swim in the open water at weekends – so it is a real treat. As a result, I tend to lose the plot for the first kilometre or so and get lost in that glorious sensory overload.

Capri Djatiasmoro: Walk into the ocean, swim out deeper water, turn around to face the shore, and float to see which way the current is going.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Do you jump in the water or dive in? Do you slowly sit at the edge of the pool and ease your body in the water or do you take a running dive?

James Savage: It depends on where I am. When I am at swim practice at the pool, we have to start with a 3 point entry. When I am at the reservoir, I just walk in on the boat launch. When I have to jump off a boat, I just jump enough to get in. I don’t like going underwater when I first get in. My mom says I look like a flying dead frog because my arms and legs are all sprawled out. At my pool at home, I do a big cannon ball and get everyone wet.

Cristian Vergara: Never, ever dive. Pool or open water, always jump in feet first. Dive only in competitions or while training on dive starts.

Bruckner Chase: Always feet first jumping or walking in – There is a reason that’s a rule for pool competitions and open water safety.

Tuomas Kaario: I always do the same. I go the stairs into the water quite fast and then I stand there for a while. Then I start my swimming.

Adrian Sarchet: DIVE. STRAIGHT. IN. See my answer above to question 2 – I’m to excited to do anything else.

Capri Djatiasmoro: Jump right in and welcome how the water feels.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: When you hit the water, what are the first things that you think about? Is your first impression about the water temperature or is it how your body feels?

James Savage: I think about how cold it is. I don’t like cold, but I like swimming. Then once I start swimming, I just daydream, usually about pizza.

Cristian Vergara: When I hit the water, first thing I think about is how my body feels.

Bruckner Chase: I notice the temperature first and then start doing a ‘systems’ check as my body adjust to the water: shoulders, back, legs, temperature, breathing, mind.

Tuomas Kaario: It is the water temperature. My feelings come a lot later.

Adrian Sarchet: The feel of the water on my skin. I tend to get sensory overload for a while and just exist in the moment.

Capri Djatiasmoro: How the water feels along my skin. I feel so good in the water.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Does getting in and starting an open water practice or pool workout get easier or quicker as you get older? Or is your typical regimen always the same?

James Savage: I am only 10 years old, but it does get easier. I am always the first one in the pool at swim practice. I like to get in and swim. In open water, I like to get in as soon as possible and make my way to the front of the starting line. I usually race big adults who are bigger and faster than me so I have to make sure I don’t start out behind if I want to keep up. Because I’m little I can usually squeeze between the big crowd of people at the door of the boat towards the front of the line because they don’t see me.

Pat Gallant Charette: At the age of 66 and with 20 years of open water swimming under my belt, my training has changed compared to 20 years ago. In my early years of training, I was always focused on building my endurance. And, now 20 years later I have a strong endurance base. I will maintain it by having a long swim every couple of weeks. On the other days of training, I have short swims of 1 to 2 hours. My training is easier compared to 20 years ago. I work on maintaining my base. I have incorporated cross training for a well-rounded program. I’m looking forward to swimming across the Molokai Channel next month.

Cristian Vergara: I don’t think it has anything to do with age, has more to do with who is around, how interesting the conversation gets. For some reason it’s always interesting. The weather. Usually I will get right in when I am training alone.

Bruckner Chase: It’s not age, it’s conditions. The pool is always the same. I lay out my gear and I am swimming within a minute. In the ocean, I spend a few minutes studying the conditions from the sun to wind to waves to currents to wildlife. In any open water scenario, we always have an entry plan, a course plan, an exit plan and a contingency. YOU ALWAYS KNOW WHERE YOUR PARTNERS ARE.

Tuomas Kaario: For me, its has become more easy. I’m more comfortable with the water [now].

Adrian Sarchet: It gets easier and quicker as I get older. I was too easily distracted as a youngster. Age has brought discipline.

Capri Djatiasmoro: It is the same; just get in the pool or walk into the ocean.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: How long does it take for you to warm-up and be able to swim at a good/fast pace? Does a good warm-up differ in your pool workouts versus your practice swims in the open water?

James Savage: It takes me about 10 or 15 minutes to warm up. I swim early in the morning when it’s dark out so part of my warm-up is just trying to wake up.

Cristian Vergara: Usually I will take 10 to 15 minutes. The warm-up differs tremendously in the pool as it will incorporate drills and different strokes. In open water, the warm-up is a consistent non-stop swim with changes in pace. Bruckner Chase: Usually 10 – 15 minutes to feel ready to go open or pool.

Tuomas Kaario: My warm-up is almost the same always. It takes about 15-30 minutes to swim with good pace.

Adrian Sarchet: Warm-ups take less time in the pool than in the open water. In the pool, I’m ready to up the pace after a warm-up of 800 metres or so. In the open water, it is probably more like 1,500 metres.

Capri Djatiasmoro: Pool workout is more regulated, after 15-20 minutes I am ready to start pushing. In an ocean workout, the ocean and conditions determine the workout much more than in a pool workout.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: If you swim in the ocean, approximately how long does it take for you on average (in minutes) to take off your clothes, put on your goggles, assess the water conditions (and/or currents and tides) and stretch/hydrate before you start to enter the water?

James Savage: Usually I have my wetsuit on because it’s really cold and I put that on before I leave the house. I zip it up when I get there. I eat and drink in the car on the way there. It doesn’t take long to get in the water, maybe 5 minutes. We park the car and I help my mom carry her kayak to the water. When she is getting in, I put on my goggles and walk in. I always beat her.

Cristian Vergara: This will all depend who is swimming and how interesting the conversation is. This could be up to more than 20 minutes. When alone, this process will take less than 2 minutes.

Bruckner Chase: From the car to toes wet, probably 10-15 minutes. Just studying the water needs to take about 5 minutes so you have watched at least one or two waves sets roll through.

Tuomas Kaario: Normally 20-30 minutes. I’m a slow guy.

Adrian Sarchet: About 2 minutes. There is a glorious group dynamic when a bunch of like-minded lunatics are standing on a beach on a cold, rainy day waiting to see who will be the first to strip off. Once the first intrepid soul begins to strip off, there is then a flurry of perfectly timed activity so that everyone finishes changing at the same time and can all walk or run down to the water’s edge. Inevitably, there is always one person who gets their timing wrong, and finds themselves on the end of catcalls and friendly jeers.

Capri Djatiasmoro: The pre-swim beach time can be anywhere from 10 minutes to 1 hour. The opportunity to meet and chat with fellow swimmers on the beach is the only time we can be social, so we tend to linger and talk and watch the other swimmers and talk to them when they get out as to the conditions and water temperatures. On the other hand, if it is a brutal, cold, rainy, windy day, there is no chit chat, hello, goodbye if that, and after our swim, we run to change into warm dry clothes.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: Do you typically eat anything before you start a morning workout in the pool or in the open water?

James Savage: I don’t eat a lot normally, but my mom makes me eat usually bananas and yogurt and drink. When we go super early in the morning and she gets her Starbucks, I ask her to buy me a warm chocolate chip cookie. She does.

Cristian Vergara: I prefer to train with an empty stomach. I will hydrate before when the weather and water temperatures are warm.

Bruckner Chase: GU Stroopwafel and GU Hydration drink mix on the way to the workout.

Tuomas Kaario: Yes, I usually eat quite much before I do my training. I have noticed that it is the best way for me.

Adrian Sarchet: No.

Capri Djatiasmoro: No, maybe a small tapioca pudding, but basically my stomach has to empty, otherwise it is very uncomfortable.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: When do you determine your swim distance or direction during an open water workout? Do you plan everything well before you arrive at the beach or lake – or do you make adjustments when you get to the shoreline or after you get in the water?

James Savage: I go with a plan, but it doesn’t always work out that way. When I go to the reservoir in the morning, I don’t have too much time because I have to go to school and can’t be late. I always plan on about 2.5 miles and most days I do it, but sometimes I see wildlife and like to stop and watch it. Sometimes, I like to see the sun come up over the dam. If we start coming up short on time, I have to cut my swim, but it’s ok. I have a couple different routes I take to change things up. It doesn’t matter though as long as I get to swim. Sometimes it gets really windy and in certain spots of the lake are worse so I avoid those corners and cut that part from my swim.

Cristian Vergara: I will usually have a distance and direction in mind before arriving to the beach and after checking the tides. I do, at times, make adjustments when I get to the shoreline, depending on the direction the “group” is swimming.

Bruckner Chase: Workout is planned the day or two before, but everything is subject to change based on conditions.

Tuomas Kaario: I always do very good planning before the swim: pace, distance, etc.

Adrian Sarchet: We plan the swim on the shoreline before we change.

Capri Djatiasmoro: I check the tides, the water temperatures, the wind speed and direction online and make a tentative plan. But this can all change when I get to the beach. Also conditions can change while I am swimming, so always ready and willing to make adjustments.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What are your perfect conditions for a practice swim?

James Savage: Hot sun, warm water, no wind, no floating dead fish and no time limit. I like swimming with other people, but none of my friends like open water so they won’t swim with me. Sometimes my coach swims with me. I like when we drive down the hill to the reservoir and it looks like glass because it’s so calm.

Cristian Vergara: In open water, the ‘perfect’ conditions [for me] are when the water is rough (confused). If it’s cloudy and raining, this would be icing on the cake.

Bruckner Chase: Mid-tide, 65-68°F water temperature, 75°F air temperature with a 2-4 foot swell and an off-shore wind.

Tuomas Kaario: During summer with easy water and not too many waves with the water around 18-20°C under the sun in fresh water, not sea water.

Adrian Sarchet: Rough as hell. I love swimming in really rough conditions. Not so much for the actual workout, but for the peace of mind that comes afterwards with the realisation that, ‘If I can swim in that; I can swim in anything.’

Capri Djatiasmoro: I swim for beach, food waiting for me when I get back to shore … that will get me through a workout.

Daily News of Open Water Swimming: What kinds of days or conditions do you dread getting into the water?

James Savage: Rainy days. Cold days. Windy days. I don’t like when the waves hit me in the face. For practice if they do that, I can change direction and waves won’t hit my face, but if I want to practice for real races, I just deal with it. I can’t change direction in a race. It’s always a good day to swim though.

Cristian Vergara: When it’s windy, cloudy and raining, but once in, it’s sublime.

Bruckner Chase: Grey and overcast, on-shore wind over 10 mph, air temperature below 50°F just makes for a miserable time out of the water.

Tuomas Kaario: Too many waves, too windy, and darkness with lots of sea life like sharks, etc.

Adrian Sarchet: I never dread getting into the water. The rest of my life is so frantically chaotic and time-pressured that my time in the water is the ultimate relief, whatever the conditions.

Capri Djatiasmoro: Cold, sleet, rain, and the bathrooms are closed. No cover, no place to change,that is rough.

Copyright © 2008-2017 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones