So, you’re thinking about doing a TRI but the thought of open water scares the crap out of you?
Does the thought of sharks give you anxiety (for that lake swim) or does the thought of weeds touching you, or sand touching your feet makes you want to run back to land?
You’re not alone, but I’m going to tell you to just TAKE THE LEAP. Most of those fears are totally in your head, it’s time to get OUT of your head and into the water!
Talk to a friend, what are your fears and how likely are they? For example, I hear so often “I am afraid of sharks.” I know I can’t convince you that a shark isn’t going to invade a triathlon, but seriously, you are more likely to get struck by lightning while riding your bike in the sunshine! Do you worry that a Bald Eagle might pluck you from your bike? No… so stop worrying about sharks.
Really though, people pay great money to swim/ dive with sharks so it isn’t a benefit you’re going to find at a triathlon (they’d charge extra).
Now that I’ve scared you even more, I promise – sharks aren’t going to be anywhere near you splashing round at a triathlon! Just get IN THE WATER.
Another fear that people share is the ‘unknown darkness.’ Well that’s just the nature of swimming, I grew up on the Allegheny River just outside of Pittsburgh so the ‘unknown’ was part of my life. I know this is tough for others to consider, just get in the water and try to breathe, it will eventually relax you.
“The thing is, the fear won’t go away by never trying- so just MAKE THE JUMP. You will find yourself in some amazingly beautiful places.”
Here are some tips:
Breathing- all the cool kids are doing it:
Are you anxious even before you get in the water? Stop and sit at the water’s edge, just breathe big in-hale, big exhale. Then get into the water about elbow deep and walk the shoreline, continue breathing and listen to your breath. Next bend over and stick your face in the water. Not your chin, your whole face. Big exhale in the water through your mouth and nose, then turn your head to the side and inhale and back to the water to exhale. Listen to that exhale in the water, it will eventually become very soothing to you.
A common mistake is to hold your breath while your face is in the water. This will only increase fatigue as you deplete your oxygen levels. Practice constant breathing, inhale..then exhale; never stopping.
Once you have the standing and breathing down, then try swimming and breathing.
The inability to see can definitely freak you out, especially in open water. Make sure your goggles fit properly and don’t leak. Making them ‘tighter’ doesn’t necessarily make them fit better. There is a slight lip on the outside of a goggle and if you tighten it so much that you flip that over, it will leak. You need to make sure you have the right size for your face and this is a trial and error endeavor. Expensive doesn’t mean a good fit either.
Defogger is another think you need to know about. Human spit is great for this! One of the funniest clinics I ever instructed was showing a group of women how to SPIT. I’m sorry LICKING the inside of your goggles won’t help you. If you’re fogging up, SPIT into your goggle. If you are having trouble, ask the nearest teenage boy to show you how. If you are convinced you can’t spit, then you can purchase an anti-fog solution (or you can use baby shampoo and water solution). Rinse your goggles, then the important piece either put them on your eyeballs right away or put water in them until you’re ready to wear. This will prevent the air from getting onto the goggle and eliminating that barrier you just created.
Lastly, always have extra in your bag in case you break a strap.
“One of the funniest clinics I ever instructed was showing a group of women how to SPIT. I’m sorry LICKING the inside of your goggles won’t help you. If you’re fogging up, SPIT into your goggle.”
Limit your exertion, especially when you are anxious.
Avoid kicking so hard, this will use tons of energy and deplete your O2 levels. This will make you feel much more anxious as you ‘gasp’ for air. Use a flutter kick just enough to keep your body horizontal in the water. Kicking hard isn’t going to win a triathlon for you, save those legs for the bike and the run.
You don’t want to come out of the water looking like this: (this was a bad day for me, but makes for a pretty funny picture- always treasure the pictures)!
These tips should help you to reduce your fear. The bottom line is though; you have to practice to get over it. Remember when you were a kid and afraid of the dark? You had to learn that it was just ok to walk into the dark room. Practice your breathing, take a friend, go for a walk in that open water, talk about your fears, and face them head on. Just take the leap!