How to start open-water swimming if you’re nervous, and build up confidence

Nervous about just being in open water, never mind swimming in a pack and racing? Mel Berry has this confidence-building advice for wannabe open-water swimmers

How start wild swimming

The open water swimming phase of triathlon is often the most daunting and can put many off doing a triathlon, but with a little bit of practice it can become an enjoyable experience. Not all triathlons are in open water so if you feel more comfortable in a pool then start off with a pool-based event.


How to become more comfortable and confident in open water

However here is some advice for those wanting to venture into wild swimming for the first time, despite their nerves

1. Find a beginner’s open water swimming session, at a recognised open water swimming centre, which will introduce you to it in a safe and controlled environment.

2. Make sure you don’t swim alone, go to an organised open water session where there are lifeguards, so you’ll feel more at ease. Also always make sure you have a spotter with you, as that will be reassuring for you.

3. Remember a wetsuit will be tight when you’re not in the water, but this is normal! It will feel looser once in the water

4. Spend some time getting the wetsuit on properly, if not it will feel uncomfortable throughout your swim

5. Gradually enter the water so you can get used to any temperature changes. Get some water into your wetsuit, as this will give a layer of insulation in the suit and keep you warmer. Splash some water on your face again to get used to the temperature and when ready pop your head in.

6. Start off slowly and concentrate on your breathing, little bubbles out of your mouth or nose when your head is in the water. Controlling your breathing will hopefully stave off or deal with any panic that may ensue.

7. Start with short distances not far from the edge until you feel comfortable. It will feel very different to pool swimming so don’t worry about distance.

8. Practice as much as you can

9. Consider buying an inflatable tow float/ swim bag/ flotation aid as it can provide a visible aid for your spotter, and is something to lean on if you need a rest! Not to mention you can put essentials in it.


Mel Berry is a level 2 triathlon coach and founder of Her Spirit a personalised coaching app for women that encourages women to take on new challenges, living life to the full and achieving more than they ever thought possible.