General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Swimming Anxiety Rss Feed  
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2005-07-18 7:21 AM

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Expert
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state of denial
Subject: Swimming Anxiety
This weekend I completed my 5th sprint. I continue to improve in the bike and run portion of the race, but I continue to freak out in the swim portion. I go to the pool, I swim laps, I do drills, when I get in the open water I completely freak out and end up breast stroking the entire distance. This is obviously pretty slow and with the extra anxiety to boot I am always exhausted coming out of the water. Does anyone have any suggestions for getting over this issue???


2005-07-18 7:26 AM
in reply to: #200713

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Veteran
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Central Connecticut
Subject: RE: Swimming Anxiety
I considered myself a really good swimmer in the pool, but once I hit open water the first time I freaked out. It was a combination of the cold, and not being able to see more than 4 feet in front of me.

At least for me, I found that all of the problems in Open Water swimming was finding a rhythm. Breathing every stroke or every other stroke (depending on which side you breath), and sighting every 3rd or 4th stroke. The open water swim is almost 95% mental, once you get your mind in swim mode you could probably swim across the atlantic.

My suggestion is to get in the open water more, if you can. Your body CAN swim, now its trying to get your mind used to it.
2005-07-18 7:31 AM
in reply to: #200719

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Master
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Subject: RE: Swimming Anxiety
Well you probably have read my story by now. Just remember that familiarity breeds comtempt. Get into OW, if you can once a week and it will help.
2005-07-18 8:17 AM
in reply to: #200713

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Master
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Subject: RE: Swimming Anxiety
I had exactly the same problem. I am soooo not a swimmer, but was making decent progress in the pool. But - every time I hit OW (for me, whenever it got deep enough that I couldn't stand up) - I'd panic and start hyperventilating. Funny how hanging on to lifeguard buoys don't help your swim time.

At my last race, I decided that I was going to start out reeeaaallllllyyyy sllllooooooowww.... I mean, if I were going any slower, I'd be swimming in place. What I was going for, though, was getting my stroke going and making sure that there was NO WAY that I'd exacerbate my anxiety by pushing my heart rate up from swimming too fast. And wonder of wonders, that worked. Once I started feeling comfortable, I sped up a little, but still kept the pace nice and easy. The only downside - I ended up between waves swimming by myself and that really magnified my awful sighting ability. But, I'm okay with that.

In the end, I took over 10 minutes off my swim time from last year, and exited the water not feeling exhausted (or like I had almost drowned!).

That said - if you have the opportunity, OW practice is probably the best way to tackle this problem.
2005-07-18 8:54 AM
in reply to: #200713

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Buttercup
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Subject: RE: Swimming Anxiety

Define "freaked out."

What goes through your mind during OW swim?

2005-07-18 9:00 AM
in reply to: #200713

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Expert
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Subject: RE: Swimming Anxiety
Freak out as in my only though becomes "don't drown". My heart is pounding, breathes are short, and one gulp of water puts me in temporary panic mode. I think I was on the Titanic in my last life.


2005-07-18 9:10 AM
in reply to: #200809

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Buttercup
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Subject: RE: Swimming Anxiety

I took a quick look at your logs. Looks like you need to put in more laps, become a stronger swimmer. Being a stronger swimmer will make you feel more competent in any water for obvious reasons.

Practice in OW and force yourself to swim freestyle. You CAN do it. Don't bite off more than you can chew and DO take a swim buddy (someone who is competent and confident in OW).

I don't know your swim history, but if you are new to swimming, I recommend that you get comfortable with not breathing. This will teach your body that you can not breathe and you will still be safe (to help with your anxiety). When you get in the pool, do these breathing excercises:

  • Stand on your hands and walk on your hands (underwater). This will teach you to control your exhaling which is how you learn not to suck water up your nose.
  • Sit on the bottom of the pool and slowly exhale. Sit there for as long as you can. Do this 10 times. Use your watch to time yourself and strive to sit on the bottom for longer and longer periods.
  • Tread water in the deep end. Start with 15 minutes; work your way up to 30 minutes. If you can tread water for 15 minutes, you will be safe in any open water. It will also relax you (helps with anxiety). If you can do 30 minutes, you can do 2 hours. Nice to know you can keep yourself afloat indefinitely, isn't it?
  • Do swim drills where you don't take any breaths. Start with one 25 yard swim, no breathing. Work your way up to four 25 yard swims (15 second breaks). When you get to the point where you can swim 50 meters (long-course) with no breathing, you should feel great to know you have mastered your breathing anxiety.

Good luck and happy swimming!

2005-07-18 10:24 AM
in reply to: #200713

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Crivitz WI
Subject: RE: Swimming Anxiety
You have to get into open water more often! I only say this because I don't swim in pools. I live next to the lake and swim in open water at least 20' deep. I have a boat follow close by in case I need immediate help. After proving I can swim in open water, the boat isn't really needed. I hope this helps.
2005-07-18 10:26 AM
in reply to: #200713

Member
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Crivitz WI
Subject: RE: Swimming Anxiety
I forgot one thing in my previous reply. I have also tied a flotation device to a small rope and pulled it behind me in open water in case something happened. It was kind of a mental tool until I was able to relax in open water. You'll do fine!
2005-07-18 1:08 PM
in reply to: #200713

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Elite
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Subject: RE: Swimming Anxiety

You need to practice in OW.  Do things like breaststroke for 5 strokes, freestyle for 10 strokes, then breast for 5, free for 15, if the first one feels ok.  Work your way up in chunks.  If you need to pause and catch your breath then do that.  Sounds like you need to practice getting your face in the water, and swimming. 

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