Get in the water and swim a mile

open water swimming SA Men

Open water swimming is different in every regard from the swimming you did at school, where it was all about short sprints. This is a different game all together. Usually you’ll be swimming in a dam, or in the sea. There are no lanes, you’re in the middle of a crowded line-up and you’ve got to get yourself to each buoy and back to the finish line. Unless you’re one of the pro’s competing for a place, the best thing about the sport is that you only really compete against yourself. Aim for a time, and crack on. If you get it, you aim for a better time at the next race, and if not, you train harder and aim to beat the goal you set yourself. Or you can get the family involved and do it as a fun family event as it certainly makes for a healthy fun day out. Where can I compete? There are a number of races around the country. The Dischem Sun City swim, which makes for a fantastic weekend away, is in an ideal setting and is just a fun race to enter. The Midmar Mile is one of the most famous open water swimming events in the world and draws a massive crowd each year. These are just two of the events on the open water calendar. If you wanted, you could probably enter an event just about every weekend. You can usually choose between a 1-1,5km, 3km or 5km swim at any event. Midmar hosts 10km and even 25km swims for those willing, and fit enough to enter. What’s it like? The training is done and the day has arrived, you’re standing at the start and watching the other races begin. You get butterflies in your stomach as your eyes survey the course you’re about to swim. The air is filled with excitement, anticipation and the aroma of boerewors sizzling away on skottels. You look around at the other competitors; everyone has a number drawn onto their arms or legs, and is mingling at the start keen to get in the water for their race. Finally your time arrives and you’re ushered over the electronic pad which records your tag to make sure you’ve entered the starting area. Everyone makes their way to the water’s edge, some getting right up to the starting line. The crowd is bunched in the middle with the less eager, or perhaps more tactical entrants waiting on the fringes. While waiting for the horn to sound, you plot your course to the first buoy. The crowd leaps forward almost in unison, as the horn sounds for the start of the race, arms and legs are paddling and kicking. The water looks like a shoal of fish are being disturbed from beneath and trying to get away from a very large predator. As you start your race, you may get a few knocks on the head or a kick in the face, but keep going, hold your line and just get through the first few minutes until the field has spread out and you’ve found a comfortable line to swim. Find a good rhythm and go for it, possibly the most important thing to remember though is to swim straight, you don’t want to add on extra distance for nothing. Find a marker on the horizon or use a buoy, aim for it and keep checking every few strokes that you’re still on course. How to train for open water swimming Training for an open water event depends on what you hope to achieve and the distances you will be swimming. During the week mix up your training sessions with drills and strength training, use paddles and fins to strengthen your muscles and make sure you do at least one swim of the same distance as the event per week. You need to feel comfortable swimming continuously for the same amount of time as you will in the open water. Speak to a swimming trainer or download a training program off the internet. The Midmar Mile website usually offers training schedules, depending on your experience level. Open water swimming is a great sport to be involved in, and is fun, competitive and social all at once. The fact that you have something to work towards is also a good motivator, and will keep you feeling great about yourself both physically and psychologically. Give it a go, just enter a race and start training. Once you’ve clicked enter, there’s no turning back, and by just doing it, you’re enticing yourself to get in the pool and train! Most of all enjoy, and come and tell us about your experience!