What is Open Water Swim Anxiety?

Fear of open water swimming is the same as open water swim anxiety. It can be defined as a fear of swimming in lakes, oceans and other bodies of water. It’s common in athletes competing in open water races and can be dangerous to experience while swimming. The panic can be crippling.

Common Symptoms:

Some of the common symptoms of open water swim anxiety include light-headedness, high heart rate and chest pain.  Seeking medical care is essential in these situations to avoid fainting and panic attacks.

What To Do When In Distress:

There are a few things to do when you’re in distress. You should distance yourself from others, float on your back and take slow deep breaths to lower your heart rate.

Distancing yourself from others ensures that you don’t pull someone underwater out of panic. Floating on your back keeps your head above the water. It’s also a safe position to stay in while waiting for help to arrive. Taking deep breaths will calm you down and relax.

Those Around the Distressed Swimmer Should:

When around the distressed swimmer, you should focus on staying calm and positive. This helps the anxious swimmer feel safe when waiting for help to arrive.  Leaving a distressed swimmer alone is never a good idea. This is why in situations like these, one person should be designated to stay with the swimmer. It will keep them safe until their anxiety alleviates and medical help arrives.

How to Overcome Fear of Open Water Swimming:

It is extremely important to overcome this fear to avoid getting anxiety while swimming in open water. Feeling comfortable in open water can help you in multiple ways. It will let you enjoy your next family vacation and outdoor swimming activities even more!

1) Prepare to Cope With Unexpected Water Anxiety

There are some key ways to cope with open water anxiety. Understand that it’s maintained by you and focus on deep and steady breathing. Visualizing yourself being calm can also train your mind and body to react calmly. 

Anxiety is created by you and your mind. This means that you are in control and can stop it by practicing the correct techniques. Breathing slowly will prepare overexertion and get you into calmer headspace. By filling your mind with positive thoughts, your body will react in the same way.

2) Start by Wading and Swimming in Familiar Waters

Swimming somewhere you are comfortable can help with easing the fear of open water. Try shallow lakes or open bodies of water by the family cottage or imagine yourself in open water while standing in the deep end of a pool. Breathe the same way you would out of water.

Familiar environments are where we are most comfortable. By being somewhere you know, it’s much easier to gain confidence. The fear of open water partially stems from not knowing your surroundings and being somewhere you know can help you adjust to swimming in new places. Breathing the same way you do out of water can be calming and makes swimming less intimidating.

3) Practice in Different Bodies of Open Water

Take every opportunity to swim in open water to get acquainted with it. The more you swim in open water and get comfortable the easier it will be to cope when feeling anxious. After all, practice makes perfect!

The only way to get better at something is to practice! Avoiding your fear will only make it worse, which is why you should take every opportunity you get to swim in open water. Like with any skill, the more you swim in open water the better you become at it. This will also reduce your amount of anxiety.

Open Water Swimming Races/Marathons Tips

Are you an athlete who wants to try out an open water race or marathon? Following the above steps can help you alleviate the symptoms of anxiety and stay calm during your race.

Prep for an Open Water Race/Marathon By:

There are a few things you can do to get ready for an open water race or marathon. Practice and familiarize yourself with the racecourse and safety staff before the race. Position yourself away from other racers at the back and sides of a group of swimmers.

Preparation does not guarantee that anxiety will go away completely. However, knowing how to handle fear while swimming in open water can help. Swimming safely in the open water also helps you conquer your fear and ensures you are well prepared.