Anxiety and Mind Training-Practice Open Water

Swimming Blog No.2 by Jacques Adam

I recently completed my 25th Half-Iron distance triathlon at Mont Tremblant.  Despite my experience and reasonable competence at swimming, I still have an initial reaction of anxiety whenever I prepare for the swim.  The water is dark; the buoys are far…This is a common emotion to many triathletes.  The fear of dark water, the unknown and unseen, maybe even some fresh water sharks lurking in the lake.  This is where training the mind is as important as the right catch and balance in the water.

 A novice triathlete I see regularly at the local YMCA had been training all year. He was at Mont Tremblant this past June for the half-Iron distance race.  Before the Sunday morning start, his anxiety got the better of him, and he could not start the swim.

Some years ago, I volunteered at the Ironman race.  As I was in my position at T1, a young woman came into the transition zone to take her bicycle and gear out some minutes before the swim start.  She was in tears and could not start the swim.  She left disappointed and devastated.  This was her third time signing up, training for, and going to an Ironman race that she could not bring herself to start.

In my last guest blog, I expressed how in the second half of the swim, I get into a rhythm and a ZEN like state of mental calm.  What many new triathletes experience though is more along the lines of panic and fear as they approach the swim start.  Too many novice triathletes neglect to practice specific skills of open water swimming.  Swimming in an open body of water is just not the same as swimming in a pool.  There is no black line to guide the way nor is the bottom visible.  The constriction of the wetsuit, the cold water on the face, the darkness of the water, being touched or grabbed by other swimmers…all require a mental adjustment.  The swimming is much the same, but the mind needs to adjust and accept the new environment.  

Open water swimming can be releasing and satisfying, but practice before the race.

Jacques Adam

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