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2008-07-16 6:51 PM

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Subject: Newbie with swim anxiety

I am doing my first tri on August 16th.  I have been in the pool since March and transitioned to the lake 3 weeks ago.  Today for a trial I swam/biked/ran the course.  I was with friends, and I was totaly shocked at the anxiety I experienced in the water.  I have been swimming anywhere from 400 - 1,000 yards, feel strong and confident that I can do the 500 yd course.  So what happened today??  I wasn't familiar with the course and I had to swim out about 100 yds before turning to swim along the shore line.  I had a hard time getting into a breathing pattern and from there just started to lose it.  I will be practicing the course again before race day.  Anyone out there with relaxation suggestions please respond.  Thanks! 

 



2008-07-16 8:29 PM
in reply to: #1535393

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Master
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Robbinsville NJ
Subject: RE: Newbie with swim anxiety
Same thing happened to me except my 1st OWS was during my 1st race. 2nd race I got there early and practiced some and it went a lot better the 2nd time (if still much slower than the pool). It's all about practice in OW and believing/knowing you can do it.

The one thing I did the 2nd time was count strokes until it was time to sight so I developed a much better rhythm.
2008-07-16 8:37 PM
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TinkerBeth
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Subject: RE: Newbie with swim anxiety

I think what you are experiencing is very common - so don't worry about that at all.

I don't know much about relaxation techniques, but the one thing I would say is don't be afraid or worried about switching to sidestroke, backstroke, whatever - if that's more comfortable for you

My strength is the swim and in my first tri I did the majority of it in sidestroke and breaststroke and did just fine

good luck and best wishes!

2008-07-16 10:36 PM
in reply to: #1535393

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Champion
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Placitas, New Mexico
Subject: RE: Newbie with swim anxiety

Sure,

But first, welcome to BT. 

You can already swim the distance in the pool, but the open water is murky, you can't see the bottom (there isn't a black line even if you could see), there may be *things* in the water, and there isn't a wall every 25 yards. 

Before your next open water swim.  Visualize what a *perfect* swim would be like.  Imagine gliding effortlessly through the water with smooth, graceful, relaxed strokes.  This is your goal...keep working on this visualization as you practice in the pool.  You won't let the little (or big) waves disrupt your graceful swim.  You won't let wind, weeds, or other swimmers disrupt your graceful swim.  Keep that mindset as you get to the open water.  Don't get in the water until you can maintain this visualization.  We do a great job making reality match our expectations (good or bad), so you're more likely to have a good swim if you're expecting a good swim.  If you're expecting a bad swim, guess what?  Yup, you're more likely to have a bad swim. 

Good Luck!

2008-07-16 10:54 PM
in reply to: #1535393

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Champion
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Brandon, MS
Subject: RE: Newbie with swim anxiety

I've got nothing for you in terms of how to handle it really.  I'm consider myself a strong swimmer (typically top 10% out of the water) and even on a nice lazy lake swim I get the jitters off the start.  Will my goggles stay on?  Is that a cramp?  Crap, I lost my sight.  And so on.  Races are worse.

What happens though, is in the race, you HAVE to do it.  I'm sure in the back of your mind while you were practicing, you knew you had an out.  You could just turn around and go back to shore.  I find that crutch actually makes it worse.  When your racing, you have no other choice but to press on, and that fact alone has always helped me to basically say, "screw it, I know how to swim, I know how to do this, so I'm just going to do it."

Now, don't be above side stroking, back stroking, any stroking if you get in the race and just can't shake it.  You won't be the only one.  You'll be better the next time, then better the time after that, and so on.

Ok, so I actually do have one piece of advice:

It's only water and you know your body.  Do what you know how to do.

Good luck and welcome to BT!

2008-07-16 10:55 PM
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Champion
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Brandon, MS
Subject: RE: Newbie with swim anxiety
McFuzz - 2008-07-16 10:36 PM

We do a great job making reality match our expectations (good or bad), so you're more likely to have a good swim if you're expecting a good swim.  If you're expecting a bad swim, guess what?  Yup, you're more likely to have a bad swim. 

Indeed.

Advice that goes beyond the water as well.



2008-07-17 12:40 AM
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Subject: RE: Newbie with swim anxiety
Hi There,

I did my first Tri last Saturday and despite having some ows under my belt I got myself all worked up and for what ever reason I panicked during the swim ...but..I was able to calm myself down by doing other strokes such as side strokes, breast stroke, and yes, even the back stroke. I just kept on telling myself.."I am going to get through this..I am going to get through this.." And I did..whew!! Good luck and welcome to BT..

Take care,
Stacey
2008-07-17 1:25 AM
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Master
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Subject: RE: Newbie with swim anxiety
I's all about breathing. The visualization techniques suggested is good and helps many people, but in the end you can continue to swim only as long as you can breathe. I know that statement sounds ridiculous, but realize that as long as you can breathe comfortably in the water, you can take your time stroking. To stay calm in the water do what feels most comfortable: breast stroke, side stroke, back stroke, heck even doggy paddle. Do whatever you need to do to find some kind of rhythm in your breathing and then focus on that. Ignore the other stuff (stroke technique, lake grass, the people, or lack of, people around you). Easier said then done when you first get started, but I'm sure you will get the hang of it. When I help others with their swimming I always begin and end with breathing. If I can teach a person to breathe with their feet off the bottom and their face in the water I can teach them to swim.
2008-07-17 4:32 AM
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Subject: ...
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Edited by FutureIronGirl17 2008-07-17 4:33 AM
2008-07-17 9:10 AM
in reply to: #1535393

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Columbus, Ohio
Subject: RE: Newbie with swim anxiety
Similar situation here. Started swimming last December and did my first tri in April with a pool swim. Good way to get the feel for a tri in "safe" water. Second tri was in June and was an OWS, but it was a shoreline swim, which although I somewhat struggled with the distance, I was okay with the fact I was in a lake because I could feel the bottom! My race last Saturday was a disaster. OWS to a buoy in the middle of a lake. Once I got to a point where I knew I was in deep water, my mind freaked on me! I totally panicked.

I know my issue with the OWS is completely mental and I am confident with experience I will get over it. I used to panic in the deep end of the pool, but no longer.

My opinion is experience will get you there, and the more comfortable you feel the less likely you ate to panic.

2008-07-17 9:21 AM
in reply to: #1535393

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Subject: RE: Newbie with swim anxiety

Apparently I need to do more pool work. Basically all of my swimming is in the ocean.  All of my tri's have been OWS and the best advice I would offer up is simply relax.  It's just a little swim, you've done several thousand yards before this swim and you will do many more after.  Just get thru the initial onslaught of arms and legs and settle in for a nice little swim around the lake/ocean.  I know you will do great!



2008-07-17 10:00 AM
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Subject: RE: Newbie with swim anxiety
For me, the start is critical. Once panic sets in, it's hard to get rid of it. If you can get in the water and swim a warm-up, that will help. I like to swim a couple short, fast bursts (in the warmup) to get that initial heavy breathing out of the way. Then when the swim starts, make absolutely sure you take your time to pick your spot and get into a rhythm, don't worry about speed/time for the first 100 yds or so. Other than that, it comes down to practicing OW swimming as much as you can. More you do it, the easier it gets.
2008-07-17 10:26 AM
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Subject: RE: Newbie with swim anxiety
You're definitely not alone. I've only been swimming about 2 months and did my first tri last month. I had a great warm up and was pretty confident, but the minute my wave started, it kind of fell apart. I can't agree more with the advice on breathing. I was panicked so I was unable to exhale fully which means I really couldn't inhale. I struggled through the first 75 meters or so and then ended up back backstroking. I was definitely not the only one and it really calmed me down. I was able to keep moving and catch my breath. I flipped over and gave it another try and then backstroked when I needed to. Since then, I've started breathing on every stroke, which helped me get into a rhythm and feel more comfortable. I've also done a lot of OWS practice and it gets a little easier each time. I don't think the jitters will ever fully go away, but it's a good source of energy if you can learn to control it. Good luck and remember to have FUN!
2008-07-17 10:35 AM
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Subject: RE: Newbie with swim anxiety
PLMsbr - 2008-07-17 11:00 AM

For me, the start is critical. Once panic sets in, it's hard to get rid of it. If you can get in the water and swim a warm-up, that will help. I like to swim a couple short, fast bursts (in the warmup) to get that initial heavy breathing out of the way. Then when the swim starts, make absolutely sure you take your time to pick your spot and get into a rhythm, don't worry about speed/time for the first 100 yds or so. Other than that, it comes down to practicing OW swimming as much as you can. More you do it, the easier it gets.


Good advice. One other thing I did in my first OWS was start in the back of the pack and I actually waited about 5 seconds once the horn sounded to let swimmers in front of me clear.
2008-07-17 10:38 AM
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Subject: RE: Newbie with swim anxiety

Like the posts above have said, this is not uncommon. When I first started tris, I had a pretty decent swim background, but my first few races in open water were just horrible. In addition to the above advice about positive thoughts in the water, for race day, make sure to get into the water several minutes before your wave starts. Get your face down in the water and get over any initial shock of hitting the water by swimming around for a few minutes if possible. If you are wearing a wetsuit, this could also help you get past the initial feeling that the suit is tightening around you.

Focus mentally on remaining calm and having a good swim. If you are breathing really hard at first, slow yourself down, get your breathing under control and focus on remaining calm. Just keep practicing in open water, you will get the hang of this and it will get better!

And welcome to BT!

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