8 ways to beat open water nerves

From positive mantras to visualisation and jokes, long-distance swimmer Adam Walker shares his tips for overcoming your open-water swimming anxieties

Eight ways to beat open water nerves

The swim is probably the part of triathlon that beginners fear the most – despite being the shortest of the three disciplines. We asked record-breaking swimmer Adam Walker for his advice on how to beat those worries…


1. Trust your ability, you have to believe in yourself even if others doubt you. It’s your belief that counts!

2. Don’t talk about failure – if anyone asks you how you feel about the swim race or triathlon, dismiss any negatives and say “I’m looking forward to the challenge.” It is human nature to protect ourselves from disappointment. I found that being positive, even when at times in reality I wasn’t quite as confident as I made out, I could almost trick my brain to shut out any demons.

3. Avoid negative people – they can be like emotional vampires and sap the positive life out of you and make you doubt yourself.

4. Never say negative words such as cold or failure – don’t make them real. I would constantly tell myself I was warm, comfortable and enjoying being part of something different and memorable. I once repeated hot/warm/hot for six hours thinking nothing else! If you are thinking positive thoughts you can’t be thinking negative ones at the same time. There are thought stopping techniques you can use if you find you’re drifting into negative ones.

5. Think about why you are doing the event – whether it’s a personal challenge, for charity or something else entirely, you’ve got to keep reminding yourself of those reasons and how much you want it! I used to leave notes for myself by my bed: “I am going to swim the channel!” I would also listen to motivational CDs.

6. Daydream about the feeling of achieving the swim, how accomplished you will feel and how proud everyone will be of you. Focus on the end goal!!

7. Always have a next event planned, then the immediate one isn’t the only challenge and is just part of a process. After the Gibraltar two-way I had five more swims to think about, so each individual one wasn’t the be all and end all as I had to progress to complete the seven.

8. Laugh lots – enjoy the experience of open water swimming. It will be tough at times but if it was easy everyone would be doing it. No you are not alone, others are feeling the same way you do. I always try and joke through any nerves and enjoy the moment. Be proud that you are different and unique. Remember this is your destiny and you are in full control of it!!

Also, check out this competition to win a 30min swim coaching session with Adam, the first British person to swim the toughest seven ocean swims in the world: http://oceanwalkeruk.com/comp.html

You can hear Adam’s inspirational story about conquering the toughest seven Ocean swims at the show and how he did it here.


How do you quell open water nerves? Let us know in the comments below!