Swimming in open water vs a pool: considerations to make
The sport of swimming is versatile. You can compete with different strokes, distances, and even the water you swim in. Some people prefer the calm, organised precision of the pool, while others like the unpredictability of the open water.
There’s no wrong answer and you might like both for different reasons. For those looking to come out of the pool and dip their toes into the sea, there are a few considerations to make with open water swimming.
The swimming costume you wear when competing is hugely important. It doesn’t matter where you’re swimming, if your costume is baggy, restrictive, or uncomfortable, it could slow you down and make swimming harder. We want to be comfortable and streamlined and competitive swimmers wear skin-tight stretchy costumes tailored for the sport. While this might also be true for open water swimming, be aware you may need to buy a wetsuit to swim.
What you wear depends on the temperature of the water. According to the rules of open-water swimming, if the temperature is between 17.9°C and 16°C, wetsuits are compulsory. If it’s between 19.9°C and 18°C, swimmers can choose to wear a wetsuit or not. And, if the water temperature is 20°C or above, swimmers shouldn’t wear a wetsuit. This protects you from the dangers of hypo/hyperthermia when competing. Hypothermia is if you get too cold; hyperthermia is if you get too hot.
Knowing how to sight
Sometimes, winning in open water swimming doesn’t come down to speed like in the pool, it comes down to open-water swimming skills and who has mastered them. In a swimming pool, tiles, lines, and floats help to define the lanes clearly. In the open water, a vague idea of where you’re heading is all there is. This sometimes causes people to swim on curved lines, which adds to the distance and time they take to swim. Learning how to sight and swim straight takes practice, but it’s an essential part of staying safe and swimming strong during competitions.
One of the worst things you can do in the open water is panic. Maybe you can’t see properly because of leaking goggles, maybe the water is freezing, or perhaps you’re crammed amongst hundreds of other athletes battling for top position. If you’re uncomfortable, try not to panic as this can lead to exhaustion. Instead, focus on keeping your breathing steady and your stroke smooth just like you would in the pool. Try to find some space for yourself, even if it’s to float or tread water and gather your breath, then get ready to power on. Remember, breathing is crucial. It might sound like an obvious tip, but when you’re in open waters it’s all too easy to forget the basics and start panicking.
Open-water swimming differs from swimming in the pool. You have to battle waves, throngs of other swimmers, extreme temperatures, and you need to be on the top of your game because there is nowhere to put your feet down and no sides to hold. It’s a challenge, but one that many people love when they give it a try.
At Maru, we make swimwear for all swimmers. Whether you bring your A-game to the pool or battle it out in the open water, our swimwear is made of high-quality materials and retains its shape swim after swim. Some are even made with Lycra Xtra Life which provides excellent fit and performance. Take a look at our costumes on our website.