Losing my Virginity in Open Water

open water


“Thinking will not overcome fear but action will” – W. Clement Stone

We all have things that we are afraid of, or better said, scare the living daylight out of our souls.
Some people are afraid of spiders, some hate the thought of public speaking and others hate heights.
One of the things that many new triathletes, and thereby including me, have to deal with in their adventure of combining 3 sports in one go is OWS.

Open Water Swimming that is.

Like most triathletes the middle part: ‘Water’, isn’t an issue. We swim in indoor pools and take showers (thank god) and so we can conclude that Water in this case is not the problem that makes our souls shiver.
Swimming then? Could that be the issue here? No, we are triathletes and since triathlon still involves swimming it would be a rather odd decision to become a triathlete if one is dead afraid of swimming in general. Like a cab driver afraid of his car. This is not it.
Open. Would be a bit strange if this was the problem wasn’t it? ”Scared of open things” would be a strange medical condition where someone is afraid of what? open doors? open drawers? We are scared but no, we are not mentally ill.

The thing that makes OWS so dead scary is the combination of the three words: Open. Water. Swimming.

And so there I was, ready to conquer the fear that all the other Ironman before me had conquered.
And I wanted to go home, slip under a blanket and never face this cold, hard world again. I was scared.

Still I jumped in, I had to do this.
I did it!Ā I thought to myself. There I was standing firmly on the ground.
What? ”Standing firmly on the ground”? I hear you wonder.

Yeah, turns out that that ‘Open Water’ of mine was around 60 cm/2 feet deep so I just stood there looking like an idiot while my father was filming this great anti-climax of mine.

“Well, I’m in anyway so might as well just go for it.”Ā I said to myself.
Turns out that you can’t really see a damn thing in open water and that your feet, hands and, above all, your face get numb if the water is still to cold, which luckily… it was.

After swimming around 50 meters in total, while staying close to shore and still a bit in my comfort zone (for as far as you can say comfort zone in open water) I started playing around a bit like a young seal who just learned how to swim.
Finally I could conclude that I now officially couldn’t feel my feet anymore and I thought that was a viable reason to get out.

Well, I had at least done it.
No I did not swim anywhere near 100+ meter.
No I did not really ‘swim’.
No it didn’t took longer then 5 minutes total.
No It wasn’t really ‘open water’, more like a little side-river.

But I swam somewhere else then in a pool and there were probably human-eating fish out there so yes I swam in open water. No discussion possible.

What are your experiences with OWS? And got any tips to help me out (yes I’m still scared so a little help is appreciated). Let me know in the comments!

One thing left to do:

Get comfortable being uncomfortable.



  1. I LOVE open water swimming. I’m a terrible swimmer (I only starting learning to swim last year), but within two months of my first lesson, I was in a lake. I really enjoy the peacefulness as pools always seem so noisy. I prefer lakes that are clear, but I think I swim faster in murky water as there’s nothing to distract me. (The first time I swam in the sea, I was so distracted by the little fish that I forgot that I couldn’t breathe with my face in teh water – oops!)

    When I first started open water swimming, I struggle to get my breathing under control. My coach advised me to float on my back for a few seconds until I had acclimatised a little to the water; then he recommended turning onto my front and floating like that (whilst breathing out) for a minute or two. This helps me get used to the cold water on my face and means that I’m less likely to start hyperventilating.

    I blogged about my first open water swim here: http://fatgirltoironman.co.uk/2013/06/19/update-on-my-swimming/ and ahve posted several times about open water swimming: http://fatgirltoironman.co.uk/tag/open-water-swimming/

    Well done for giving it a go. Hopefully, it won’t take long for your local lake to warm up šŸ™‚


  2. Haha that’s quite an adventure you got there! For me personally the peacefulness is somewhat of a downfall, I actually feel more safe when there are other people around me šŸ™‚
    That’s exactly what I do to get used to the water, I can’t just hop in and go for it but I noticed that floating for awhile does help my body to settle!
    It’s good to read that you enjoy it, it does make triathlon a hell of a lot easier^^
    Good luck with your A-race (Challenge Weymouth I saw) and have fun open water swimming!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Dude. You’ve totally got this. In my first two races I panicked, not because I couldn’t handle the swimming but because I let the “open” part freak me out. Now, when I sight the buoy and just focus on the fact that I can swim, I enjoy it! If there’s hope for me there’s hope for us all šŸ™‚


    1. Haha, let’s hope that’s true! The water here is still to cold and Ironman is getting awfully close so still a bit nervous for the swim šŸ™‚ But what you say is right, if you focus on other things it all becomes a lot easier so that’s the strategy I’m gonna hold on to for now!^^ Thanks for the encouragement!


  4. When I started off I felt the same way.
    It was my least favourite session, the fear was there.
    Now as you read my year is focused on OWS.
    I still get the fear of a 50 lb pike watching me but get in with a few people who are confident, I guarantee there positivity will rub off on you in no time.


  5. Yeah I read that! Have to say that I admire the way you guys approach OWS, I mean a 24 mile OW swim?! But I seriously doubt if that pike fear will ever go away haha, maybe you get used to the fear but the unknown will always be a bit scary I guess :p That’s some good advice but currently I don’t have anyone who can swim with me, I currently only have my family and my girlfriend and they aren’t much of OW heroes either šŸ™‚ Keep on swimming!


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