July 30, 2015

Open water swimming and avoiding sharks

This summer has been tough with my calf injury keeping me from running my normal three days of week.  Not wanting to lose endurance during this time period, cross training was must.  So my coach added swimming workouts and not just 1000 yards of free swim.  Each workout for swimming has involved speed, arms or leg work and they have been tough.  But the hardest workout to date happened last Friday when we took to the great big ocean, actually an inlet area, for an open water swim.

After completing said swim, there were a bunch of things that I thought of that could be helpful if you are going to be tackling an open water swim.  These are just my thoughts based on my one and only open water swim (other than as a kid at summer camp swimming in Sebago Lake in Maine).

1.  Avoid the sharks  Certain times of day are feeding times for the shark family.  Dawn and dusk swimming is not recommended unless you want to be the appetizer or main course for the sharks. Leaving all shiny jewelry and accessories at home is also a good idea.  Sharks like sparkle!



2.  Be sure to have a buddy My coach had arranged this swim and there were two of us doing our first ocean swim.  Sami paired us up and she was an extra swimmer keeping us all within a safe area.  It was great having an extra pair of eyes to keep the group together.

3.  Wear a bright colored swim cap  Going along with the safety theme, it is important to be able to be seen by other swimmers and also boaters.  If you are wearing a dark colored cap, chances are they will not see you until it is too late.  I chose this beauty and yes, it would be hard to miss sighting me in the water.


4. Swim close to shore  If possible, find a place to swim where you have access to either docks or the beach.  Having a place to recover if you get too tired is imperative when you first start swimming in open water,  It will be an easier transition from pool to lake or ocean swimming if you have a place nearby for a rest.  We stopped several times during our swim to wait for others and those docks kept us from having to tread water and use up precious energy.

5.  Wear fins or a flotation device  Just because you are a strong and capable swimmer does not mean you cannot wear something to give you a little boost in the water.  Sami knew I was absolutely petrified of a potential shark problem and she gave me her wet suit shorts to wear.  This was not an option.  She just threw them down from her porch and said, "Pam, put these on.".  And I did and it made the swim super easy.

6. Have a recovery beverage handy  While it does not seem like you are sweating, swimming is a hard aerobic exercise and replenishing your fuel supply is important after a workout.  Having something handy when you get out of the water is nice, especially if you have taken in ocean or lake water.  The taste is not the best!

 7.  Have fun  Once I got in the water and started to relax I greatly enjoyed our morning swim.  When the group goes again, I will be there!



16 comments:

  1. Ok the shark aspect terrifies me. I'm new to swimming this year and still not terribly confident in open water but these are great tips. Thanks!

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    1. Yes, the sharks terrify me as well! Good luck with your swimming!

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  2. Sharks are scary! I knew about the feeding time but I never knew they liked sparkly things! Yikes! So proud of you for conquering the open water swim!!!

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    1. Thanks Mindy. It always helps to have a team behind you and an awesome coach!

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  3. Sharks are super scary! Swimming in general isn't my thing, but the idea of taking my planned swims to the ocean is even more terrifying! Kudos to you for getting out there.

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    1. Thanks Kathryn. Hopefully it is easier the next time I go.

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  4. Yikes, I think I would have been way to scared to go into the water where sharks were known to feed! I'm impressed with your bravery :)

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    1. Actually, they don't feed in the area we swim, but since the ocean is their house, it is important to be aware no matter where you are swimming.

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  5. Awww, sharks are my favorite animals! :D But here are some other things they are attracted to:

    - High contrast (so maybe not so much with the color block suits)
    - Erratic movement (keep your motions smooth and avoid swimming with dogs as they swim choppily)
    - Baitfish (obviously - but if you see a lot of birds diving and/or pods of dolphins feeding, try to relocate)
    - Chum (again obviously, but if you see fishing boats nearby make sure you keep an eye out for chum bags and slicks)

    If you DO see a shark - well, different shark species tend toward different behaviors, so if you're really worried you might want to do some research on that front. However, as a rule, most sharks actually aren't that into confrontation, so if you make it clear you've seen him (and for bonus points, start moving TOWARD him) he is less likely to take any shots. Also remember that you are safer underwater than at the surface, so diving is helpful. Another option in extreme circumstances where the shark is way up close and nosing around - and I realize this sounds insane, but I'm being serious - jump him. Again, most species of sharks don't like surprise or confrontation and they DEFINITELY don't like it when the sky falls on them. Gill pulling and nose punching are good. But only in VERY SERIOUS CIRCUMSTANCES, obviously! 99.99% of sharks are happy to leave you alone if you'll do the same, even when you're in the vicinity.

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    1. This is fabulous information Jenn. Thank you so much for taking the time to include all this great advice. I really appreciate it.

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  6. Oh, man, this sounds soooo scary. I'm not the strongest swimmer, but I've always wanted to take the time to learn proper technique and swim more...it's definitely a killer workout! Thanks so much for the tips, and glad you're able to work around your injury!

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    1. Thanks Jennifer. I am also thrilled to be back to my normal activities, but the heat and humidity here in NC has been killing me!

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  7. Great tips!
    I am one of those weird people who actually like to swim with sharks. Granted I've only done it a few times, but even out snorkeling people would be surprised at how often sharks are swimming below them, but most the time they just leave people alone.
    Granted, if I was living in NC this year, even as daring as I am, I think they've had one too many this year and I would be a bit apprehensive to hop in the waters there:)
    But these really are great tips! I've often thought while out diving and swimming that having water (drinkable) handy would have been a smart think like you said to bring along!

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  8. I would definitely say avoiding sharks would be my top priority, lol. Congrats on tackling an open water swim!

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  9. I don't think I've ever swam "for real" in the ocean, just bobbing around on vacations. I bet it's a super touch workout!!

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  10. These are great tips! I've definitely never swam (like this) in the ocean...I can imagine that's hard work! Great job, Pam!!

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