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Exercise - Sports - Open water swimming

Open water swimming is outdoor swimming in places like bays, oceans, reservoirs, rivers and lakes.

Open water swimming

What is open water swimming?

Open water swimming is outdoor swimming in places like bays, oceans, reservoirs, rivers and lakes. Whether you are wanting to improve your running skills with a different type of cross training, maybe you are preparing yourself for a triathlon. Why not try open water swimming, this is a fantastic form of exercise, requiring only a small amount of technique, a few items of kit but plenty of confidence. 

It is not the same as swimming in a swimming pool, this is because there aren’t any specific lanes, no chlorine and the outdoors is very varied and different. The water outdoors makes you feel closer to nature, more alive and you may witness some breathtaking views. Why not take a dip and discover a new form of swimming.

What are the benefits of open water swimming?

There are so many benefits of open water swimming such as;

Better sleep

Swimming outdoors can promote better sleep as being in cold water, your parasympathetic nervous system is stimulated, which helps to repair the body. This also promotes relaxation and contentment.

Better circulation

As people get colder in the outdoors, our organs and hearts have to work harder. Cold water boosts circulation in the body by driving blood around veins, arteries and capillaries. 

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Exercise – Sports – Open water swimming

         Open water swimming

Open water swimming FAQs

What Is open water swimming?

Open water swimming is swimming outdoor in water like rivers, reservoirs, lakes and oceans. 

What Are The benefits Of open water Swimming?

There are several benefits of open water swimming including; better circulation around the body, better skin, increased metabolism and increased happiness.

Where can I go open water swimming?

Open water swimming can be done in any bodies of water such as lakes, reservoirs, oceans and rivers. You should always make sure the water is 100% safe to go in before doing so. 

Is It Healthy To Swim Everyday?

Yes you can swim everyday. One of the major benefits of swimming for fitness is that it’s low impact on your body.

Is open water swimming the same as swimming in a pool?

The main difference between swimming in a pool and open water is the temperature of the water. This means you will need to prepare yourself with the correct gear.

Increased happiness

Your brain often releases endorphins when you immerse yourself in cold water; this makes for positive wellbeing when you are out of the water. Endorphins combined with exercise which reduces stress helps and promotes happiness. 

Increased metabolism

Your body has to work more when it’s cold, this increases the amount of calories burned. If the water is colder, your body will need to use more energy to keep warm.

Boost your immune system

When you spend a certain amount of time in cold water, your body produces more antioxidants and white blood cells which can support your immune system as well as reducing the risk of cancer and heart disease. 

Better skin

Your skin can be exfoliated by cold water, helping to make it appear smoother and flush out impurities. 

Tips for open water swimming

It’s not like swimming in a pool

You may be an amazing swimmer in a pool however, it can be much more difficult swimming outdoors due to environmental factors. You may have to adapt your swimming technique depending on the situation such as wave strength, the current or swimming with others. It is suggested that if you are confident in swimming in a pool continuously for 30 minutes, then you should practice swimming continuously for no more than 15 minutes in open water to begin with. 

Technique is vital

If your main focus is speed then front crawl is probably best in open water but if speed is not a main concern then any stroke is suitable except for backstroke as it can be difficult to navigate where you are going. You should focus on bilateral strength and strong stroke rate, which will assist you in more difficult swimming conditions. 

Practice in a pool

Even though swimming in different environments is dissimilar, it can be beneficial to practice in the safety of a pool, where you can build up your strength.  

Wetsuits are a necessity

In the majority of open water swimming areas which are supervised, it is essential to wear a wetsuit. However, even if the water is not supervised you should still wear a wetsuit and only swim if it is 100% safe to do so. Wetsuits also act as a partial buoyancy which helps people float if they get tired. They can be hired for a session or bought in several shops, instore and online. 

Helpful kit

Goggles are a very valuable item to have whilst swimming, especially in open waters. It may also be beneficial to buy two pairs, one with a sun block and one pair that can be seen through clearly, if it’s a cloudy day, tinted goggles will hinder your vision. You should also consider wearing a brightly coloured swimming cap, this will keep your head warm and ensure you are visible in the water. If you are susceptible to ear infections, get yourself a pair of ear plugs to prevent water going into your ears. 

Try not to panic

When you are not close to shore and immersed in dark water, you may start to panic or feel vulnerable. To prevent this, set yourself small targets to distract yourself. For example, swim to a buoyancy then turn back to shore, or swim in blocks of 50 strokes. Having small targets will help keep you calm and create a more enjoyable experience. 


Ensure you practice your breathing on the left and right, so that if the water and  waves are slightly rough on one side you can still breathe on the other. Keep your breathing calm and find a rhythm. 


Taking the Plunge

Wild swimming changes lives. The thrill of plunging – or dipping a toe – into open water brings joy, confidence, adventure and friendship. It can wash away stress and sadness, pain and grief. Here water is a great healer, a place to feel gloriously, elementally alive and in touch with yourself, with others and with nature.


The Front Crawl

For many people swimming in the pool was a struggle for survival, but often after doing some exercises and getting to know a bit of knowledge has become a pleasure. Understanding the principles on which movement in water is based and then practising them is the fastest way to improve swimming technique.


Swim Speed Strokes

In Swim Speed Strokes Sheila Taormina shows swimmers and triathletes how they can swim with elite technique in all four swimming strokes–butterfly, backstroke, breaststroke, and freestyle. Using clear photographs and her engaging, straightforward style, explaining the science behind power & speed in the water

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