Open Water Swim Training Safety
Summer has finally arrived – my favorite time of year to swim.
On the Wisconsin / Illinois state line, the heat of the summer causes water in all lakes great and small to warm to sanely swimmable temperatures, marking the beginning of my open water swim training.
Although summer is here, Lake Michigan can be frigid enough to prevent me from swimming (even with a wetsuit), so I often choose smaller (warmer) lakes for my distance swimming workouts, allowing me to enjoy open water without neoprene insulation.
But despite my anxiousness to dive in and immerse myself in mother nature, there’s one thing that I never avoid – being safe. Open water swim safety requires additional precautions and considerations (as if swimming wasn’t hard enough already!).
Here are quick swim safety tips to consider for your next open water swim:
- Swim in a group: Bring a buddy to your lake swim. There’s safety in numbers and swimming in groups adds safety. Larger groups of swimmers are easily seen from shore and are more readily recognized by boats. Group swims also lend confidence and reassurance to less confident swimmers. Remember to stay in group formation once you’ve started – live large and keep the pack together. Swimming in packs also helps prepare swimmers for the rather intense triathlon swim starts.
- Mark your shoreline: If you are swimming in an area that isn’t familiar or easily discernible from the water, mark your starting point. Marking your start helps you sight your swim and provides reassurance to new open water swimmers. Marking the swim start also helps members of the group who are planning a shorter swim (and may want to turn around before you!).
- Swim close to the shore: Consider your distance from shore. Less experienced swimmers should keep closer to shore, safety permitting. If it is not safe to swim near the shore, you may want to consider another site for your training.
- Keep your vision clear: Wear swim goggles or swim masks that have been treated with anti-fog coating and have polarized lenses. I’m partial to Kiefer brand gear, but the Kiefer Visionspex Swim Goggles are an excellent choice for open water training and racing, and have both polarized lenses and anti-fog treatment.
- Keep a high profile: Take every opportunity to make you and your group easier to see. Be sure to pick a bright neon swim cap so boats notice you sooner than later. Also, our neon orange Kiefer Safer Swimmer open water swim buoy boosts visibility for swimmers.
- Time your swim: Less experienced open water swimmers should be aware of the duration of their swim, and should bring a waterproof watch for timing. Timing swims allows swimmers to conclude their swim after an appropriate duration. Losing track of time during a swim can could cause exhaustion or hypothermia if a reasonable duration hasn’t been observed.
- Take a break and look around: Take breaks to get your bearings, noting locations of other swimmers, your swim start, and boat traffic. Stray swimmers should be collected and brought back to the group.
- Consider a guide boat: Some bodies of water have heavy boat traffic. Swimming with a guide boat adds visibility, giving jet skis and motor boats more reason to steer clear of your swim route.
Know any other important swim safety tips to keep swimmers safe during their open water swim training? I’d love to get your comments.