Today marks our first group open water swim of the season, and it seems like a good time to review a few of the more helpful tips I've learned over the years. Not to get too in-depth in this post (that will come if you can make it to the swims!), so I'll only cover 3 topics: allergies, goggle fogging, and wetsuit preparation.
ALLERGIES: This is a personal topic for me, as I've suffered with seasonal allergies in Boise for years. I've always been able to hold them off relatively well, until I started open water swimming, at which point I would regularly have to stop a swim with a sneezing fit and be up most of the night wheezing and sneezing. The result was that I avoided open water swims except for on race day of course. I know I'm not alone with this issue, as I've had countless athletes come into the store and complain of similar problems when swimming in our great ponds in and around Boise.
At some point last year TriTown regular Frank Rice told me how a nose plug dramatically helped his allergy issues. With nothing to lose I gave it a shot and was blown away that I had no wheezing or sneezing issues during our swim in Quinn's Pond, and later that night I wasn't up all night with an allergy attack.
Though the nose plug helped solved the allergy issues, it still took a while to get use to swimming with it- about 2 months to be exact. I found that for endurance, aerobic intensity swims it was really no problem, but for the shorter and more intense efforts I sometimes felt like I was suffocating with the nose plug in place. My advice would be to definitely use a nose plug if you have allergies from our ponds, and begin using it occasionally during your pool swim sessions about a month or so before you begin your open water swims. Expect to feel a little short of breathe initially, and really ease into the intensity the first few times you use it. Finally, focusing on the exhale while your face is in the water seems to help too, which is also a good swim practice regardless of whether or not you're using a nose plug. Here's to less allergies!
GOGGLE FOGGING: For this tip I don't have any scientific evidence behind it, but promise you that it has never failed me and works every time. I've had goggles for 6 months that won't fog with this technique. So with that said, here it is:
Fogging is caused by moisture, and by habit most swimmers introduce moisture to the inside of their goggles by getting their goggles wet before putting them on. Even if we don't get our goggles wet before putting them on, a lot of us also shower before getting into the pool or submerge our faces in the water before strapping on a pair of goggles. This adds cold water (moisture) to the sealed space the goggles create around your eyes, and as soon as your start generating some heat by swimming that small amount of water trapped inside your goggles starts fogging up the lens. The only way at this point to stop it is to introduce more water to 'flush it' and the process goes on.
So, just don't get your goggles wet before putting them on! If you happen to shower before a swim or submerge your face first, be sure to pad your face dry with a towel before putting on your goggles. It's that simple. Still rinse your goggles out after a swim- mild soap and water while you're showering off works great.
Here at the store we see a significant number of torn wetsuits early in the year- this unfortunately seems to happen the first time someone tries their suit on for the season. This tends to happen because the rubber of the suit becomes very dry and essentially more brittle after months of no use. You can think of neoprene a bit like a sponge- it's a lot stronger and more stretchy when wet. so if you've had your wetsuit in storage for a few months or longer, I recommend taking it out and simply soaking it in the bath tub with some cold water the day or two before you take it for an open water swim. You only need to soak it for a few minutes, then let it hang dry.
I hope these basic tips help kick start your open water swim training. See you out there and happy training!