There are many factors of open water swimming that draw people to it. Whether it is the thrill and adrenaline of being surrounded by a huge body of water in a wild environment or the unique benefits it provides to both your body and mind.
Before venturing into the deep end, it is vital to own all the open water swimming essentials and understand their purpose in keeping you protected. Open water can be harsh and completely unpredictable which is why you should ensure you are a confident swimmer and have all the necessary gear.
Below we help you explore in greater detail the benefits of open-water swimming and all the essential equipment you will need before your first swim.
There are three standout benefits of open water swimming which are achieving an increased fitness level, experiencing mindfulness, and undergoing exposure therapy. All three benefits help process stress throughout your mind and body, helping to ease any tension.
People often feel lightweight almost as if they are walking on clouds after leaving the water due to its intense healing abilities. Open water is not magic, but it can do wonders for tight shoulders, lower back pain, and ongoing anxious thoughts.
The entire process of an open-water swim is filled with moments of mindfulness. As you arrive at the water and begin to get changed into your wetsuit, you will feel a gentle breeze in the air across your face and body. The breeze is peaceful and serves as a reminder to breathe in and out without holding on to any stressful thoughts.
Stepping onto the pebble or sandy beach or even the stones surrounding a lake will allow your mind to focus on the feeling and the textures beneath your feet, this will keep you present in the moment.
When you enter into the water, your body will need to acclimate (adjust) to the temperature of the water. Due to the process of acclimation, the only thing that will keep your attention is the water temperature, the water texture on your skin, and the peaceful sight around you.
Throughout acclimatization, you are encouraged to take deep breaths and center yourself. Once you begin to swim in the water, your mind will then be actively concentrating on the motions of moving your hand and legs through the water in order to stay afloat and moving.
From the moment you arrive at the water, till the moment you leave, the only thing that can consume your mind is the present. It leaves little room for reflecting on past mistakes and regrets or anxious thoughts about the future.
There are not many activities in life that can provide you with such an exciting experience and deep state of mindfulness as open-water swimming can.
Exposure therapy is used to help people overcome certain anxieties or phobias. Typically it is the practice of consistently exposing yourself to the thing you want to avoid until eventually it no longer phases you and you overcome it.
If you are scared around lakes or oceans, and yet you have FOMO when your friends or family all jump in and you can’t, then using open water swimming is a great way to undergo exposure therapy. Indoor swimming pools are wonderful for getting you used to swimming but the real practice and exposure come from open water as it is the most similar to the thing you like to avoid.
Open water is wild, it is unpredictable. No two lakes or beach oceans are the same. You must become comfortable with the idea of open-water swimming regardless of the location.
With open-water swimming, exposure therapy isn’t just seen through the usual lens of overcoming anxieties. It can also help with your body’s natural reaction to stressful situations. Open water is often cold and so when you first enter the water your body will naturally enter a state of shock.
This state of shock can leave you feeling numb, with an increased heart rate, struggling to breathe, and difficulty swimming or sending signals to your brain. Essentially, your body is going through something stressful and is struggling to process it.
This is extremely similar to what both your body and mind experience during day-to-day stressful situations. Consistently exposing yourself to the initial shock of cold open water will over time adjust your body’s reaction to both the water temperature and stress.
Open water swimming is a level up from indoor pool swimming. This is because you are met with much more resistance within the water and harsher temperatures to deal with. Due to this, your fitness level can possibly increase at a higher rate when swimming in open water.
Depending on whether you choose to swim at a low or high-intensity level, you can burn anywhere from 500 to 800 calories per hour. This helps you achieve and maintain a healthy weight. While swimming burns calories and in turn helps you lose fat, it also works on building and toning your muscles.
Muscles in your arms, shoulders, abs, back, glutes, and legs will all grow in size and increase your overall strength.
Swimming in open water during wind spells will cause an increase in resistance when you attempt to swim. Pushing against this resistance will provide ample benefits for your endurance and cardiovascular fitness, keeping your heart and lungs in good shape.
Swimming is one of the few activities that work your entire body which makes it a great all-in-one workout to improve your fitness. You will find that consistent sessions in open water will result in better posture, flexibility, coordination, and reduced joint and back pain.
Now that you have explored the benefits of open-water swimming, you might be ready to dive in and get started on your journey. However, it is important to make sure you have all the correct and necessary equipment to stay safe in the water.
Remember that open water is much more dangerous than indoor swimming as there are rarely any lifeguards to help you and there is no shallow end in which you can find shelter. Making sure you have the right equipment is your personal form of a lifeguard.
One of the most important and necessary things you will need when open-water swimming is a wetsuit. It is designed to protect you from the harsh elements of open water and to keep you warm. There are many different types of wetsuits designed for all kinds of water sports so make sure you buy one that is specially targeted solely for swimming.
The process of buying a wetsuit is never fun, this is due to the material they are made from. It is essentially skin tight, gripping onto your body which means it requires a lot of strength and time when putting it on and taking it off.
While the process may be miserable, you must persevere in order to find a wetsuit that comfortably fits and will not limit your swimming abilities in the water.
Thermal wetsuits are recommended during colder months in order to keep you extra warm and safe. You can use a thermal wetsuit at any time if you are someone who gets cold often.
A tow float in an inflatable piece of gear which is typically strapped around your waist or wrist. Tow floats are primarily used to allow you to be seen within a large body of water due to their bright neon color.
When choosing a tow float, make sure to read reliable reviews and purchase from a trusted retailer to ensure that you are receiving a high-quality product that effectively works.
If you require help when in the water, a tow float makes it much easier for emergency teams to locate you. Having a tow float will also make other swimmers and passing boats aware of your presence in the water to avoid any accidents.
Tow floats also provide you with added buoyancy within the water, which puts less strain on your body when swimming. If you find yourself breathless and in need of a break, you can briefly use your tow float in order to stay above water while you catch your breath.
They are not designed for this reason which means this is not safe to do for an extended period of time but it is useful for 15 to 30-second breaks in the water.
There are many other accessories and pieces of equipment that are recommended for swimming but a towel is much more important.
It truly is a necessity for open-water swimmers. After leaving the water you will feel overly cold, and fatigued and you will be soaking wet. Wrapping up in a huge towel allows you to dry off, start warming up, and feel much more comfortable.
There are no specific towels or towel requirements in the swimming world aside from something that you can completely wrap around yourself and feel comfortable with.
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