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How to prepare for your first open water swim

City of Derby’s intrepid open water swimmer – and national Masters open water champion – Val Thorpe blogs some tips for newbies on how to prepare for your first open water swim.

No idea about the right gear?

So you’ve entered your first open water swim. Either you’re training perhaps with a Masters or Triathlon club or you might be using a training plan that the event has suggested.

The first thing that comes to mind is buying a wetsuit. It’s really important to get one that you feel comfortable in and it’s a good idea to see if there’s somewhere near to you where you can ‘try before you buy’, preferably with a range of wetsuits.

One of my local shops runs a couple of sessions a year at a swimming pool where, for a small cost, you can try swimming in a range of wetsuits and get some open water advice as well for a very small cost.

Many events also offer a hire option, which may be better for the first time open water swimmer rather than spending hundreds of pounds on a suit that you decide isn’t quite right.

If you are worried about being cold, there are neoprene hats, socks and gloves that you can buy but make sure these are allowed in the event.

Read Sharon’s blog for more about wearing a wetsuit for open water competitions.

Secondly, what goggles to wear? Remember you may need goggles that fit the weather on the day, be it overcast or sunny. So make sure you’ve got both and that you’ve used them before the day.

Clear or light lenses for overcast days. Mirrored or UV resistant for sunny days. You might also find you need goggles with a wider range of vision to help with sighting.

Any other kit to take?

Apart from swimsuit, wetsuit, towel and goggles what else needs to go in your kitbag?

There aren’t always shower facilities at open water events so I always take along some water and a hand sanitizer to clean my hands before I eat anything… open water isn’t always the cleanest!

Waterproof sunscreen is also necessary on a hot day but put it on after you are ‘numbered up’ if you are racing.

Anti-chafe lotion also needs to be in your bag. Make sure you have lots of warm clothing including a hat for after the swim and of course food and drink. You might need some flip-flops if it’s a long walk to the start.

What to do before and after the swim

On the day make sure you arrive early, as there will be a briefing both for safety and to have the course explained.

Check out where you can leave your kit if you don’t have a supporter who can look after it.

Make sure you’re well hydrated before you start the event and apply anti-chafe and sunscreen if necessary.

After the swim, get into warm clothing as soon as possible as you can chill off very quickly even on a warm day.

Rehydrate and get something to eat. My personal favourite is cake…after all you deserve it!