Open Water Swimming - Tips to Tame the Anxiety Beast

Open Water Swimming - Tips to Tame the Anxiety Monster


Regardless of why you want to swim open water, having anxiety is very common.


What is it about open water swimming that creates fear in an individual? 


There are many reasons; 

  • the deeper water

  • poor visibility

  • plants

  • fish/creatures

  • fear of sinking

  • the unknown

  • a wide-open expanse of water

  • the cold… the list goes on, but you are not alone.

Anxiety is perfectly normal and you can overcome it!



Here are tips to consider:

  1. Take Control Mentally - Negative thoughts can take root in your mind and distort the severity of the situation. One way is to challenge your fears, ask if they’re true, and see where you can take back control.

  2. Breath, just breath - Try breathing in for 2 counts, hold your breath for 1 count and breathing out for 4 counts for 5 minutes total. By evening out your breath, you’ll slow your heart rate which should help calm you down.

  3. Transfer your confidence - If you are confident in the pool then transfer that mental strength to the open water. Yes, Open Water Swimming is different than pool swimming. Pool swimming is very controlled. Outside everything seems out of your control. This is mostly a mental battle that you can overcome with a bit of preparation

  4. Find an Open Water Swim Club or a Coach - It is never recommended you swim alone, so joining a club ensures you have others to swim with and some clubs offer one-to-one open water swim lessons. Our club does. 

  5. Practice, practice, practice - get in the water as often as you can. 

  6. Consider your equipment - wetsuit, goggles, swim float all make the open water experience more enjoyable.  A wetsuit can keep you warm and make you more buoyant, goggles help with differing outdoor light conditions, and a swim float makes you visible to other swimmers and boats on the lake. 


Even the most prepared can experience panic while in the water. What can you do?

  1. Roll onto your back and float for a moment. Remember, particularly in a wetsuit, you will be buoyant

  2. Tread water – with the benefit of a flotation device, this will ease your panic and help you gradually relax.

  3. Focus on breathing, stroke technique, direction

  4. Count your strokes and maintain breathing control

  5. Focus on the now – one stroke at a time.

  6. Keeping your mouth closed, make a humming noise as you exhale in the water. The noise will create a vibration that relaxes your nervous system and ultimately distracts you from your worries.

There’s a lot to take in but the more you practice the more you can control the anxiety. After all, it’s meant to be fun!


Please visit our store if you are looking to purchase a wetsuit, goggles, swim float or cold water swim gear.

Looking for a swim coach? We have helped many people tackle their open water swim fears. Contacct us at to arrange a swim lesson with one of our accomplished coaches.

Julia Aimers is the Head Coach and Founder of Team Triumph Triathlon Club and Online Shop. She is a certified triathlon, cycling, swimming, yoga and accredited Training Peaks Coach. She is a Clinical Exercise Physiologist, High-Performance Specialist and a Coach Learning Facilitator for Triathlon Canada.

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