Thursday, October 20, 2016

Swim Social Blog: Anne Kane - Rising Tide of Open Water Swimming

I know a lot of recreational runners, some of whom have run “Race For Life” events and some have run marathons.  One trait most share is that they put in quite a bit of training for events.  The ones who don’t tend to have a bad experience and don’t do much running again.  That’s why I’ve been both a little surprised about the number of outdoor swimmers at Scottish Swimming events who had entered events having never swam outdoors before – and even more surprised that they’ve finished their races both exhilarated and wanting more. 

Swimming is known for being a more forgiving sport for recreational swimmers.  The water gives you a degree of support and that puts less pressure on tired muscles and limbs.   But it’s by no means an easy sport, as many recreational triathletes, who don’t give it the same attention as running or cycling, usually discover at some point. To be fair, the swimmers I’ve spoken to all tend to be fairly proficient pool swimmers and they can swim the distance indoors.  However, open water swimming is on the rise with an 8% growth in participation in the UK from 2015 to 2016[i], and a 44% increase in Scottish Swimming’s open water events this year.

For all levels of fitness…

Before the Open Water Swimming Championships at Loch Venachar in August, Claire Blue hadn’t done much pool swimming let alone open water swimming. She said ‘I am more of a runner, but I had to have knee surgery and my knees just haven’t been the same since and I want to keep up a good level of fitness. I love being outside in Scotland and don’t like running on a treadmill, which is why I have chosen to do swimming outside instead of in a swimming pool.’ She added ‘I was terrified at the start, especially the bit to the first buoy, but after that it was great. It’s very safe as there are lots of kayaks and safety offers around on the water. I would definitely do it again and can’t recommend open water swimming enough.’

For all abilities…

For novices to the sport, it can at first be a nerve racking, but exhilarating experience. That’s what 59-year-old Colin Weir experienced. Normally a pool swimmer, he signed up to take part in the one mile challenge and says ‘it’s given me a great sense of achievement. I didn’t feel the cold and I put that down to the suit. The water was really clear and I could see lots of fish.’ He added ‘There were no surprises during the swim and put that down to the safety briefing before we started.’

For something new and different…

14 year old Callum Robertson normally swims with Warrender Baths Club in Edinburgh. He said ‘I’ve started doing a bit of triathlon, which means doing open water swimming so I thought why not do this event? I am normally a breaststroker, but it’s good to do a little bit of front crawl, especially in my first ever open water swim.’ He added ‘It’s a different type of breathing because you’ve got to sight as well. But, it’s a much nicer environment, instead of going up and down all the time you’re going round in a nice scenic place.’

For all ages…

22-year-old Lauren Izzett was a competitive swimmer with the City of Glasgow Swim Team, but decided to give it up when she was 19. Now she only swims to keep fit. It was her mum that inspired her to try open water swimming for the first time. She says ‘Mum is training to do her mile for a triathlon and I just thought I would come in support of her. I really enjoyed it, so I am considering taking it up properly.’ She added ‘I’d encourage everyone to give open water swimming a go. It’s something a bit different. It really challenges you. I think it kind of shows what you can do. It’s not as scary as you think.’

With the open water swimming season drawn to a close, it’s back to the pool for many swimmers over the winter months.  But if you’re able to swim a half mile or a mile indoors, you might want to add trying an outdoor event to your 2017 goals. 

At Scottish Swimming, we’ll help you every step of the way with our 'Skills and Drills' or 'Powerswim' sessions and our 'Come and Try' events. If you want to swim more regularly let’s say three times a week, then a Masters club may be what you are looking for. Our events fill up fast so find your event, book your place and go for it in 2017!

[i] Figures from Active People Survey, Sport England

(Article courtesy of Anne Kane)