How to cope with a non-wetsuit swim in a triathlon

Panicking about a non-wetsuit swim? It can be a little daunting, but with these tips there's no need to let a lack of rubber ruin your triathlon

The recent hot weather has resulted in lake temperatures rising to something resembling a warm bath. British Triathlon Federation competition rules state that wetsuits are forbidden in water temperatures above 22°c, so it’s likely that many races over the coming weekend will be declared non-wetsuit.

Swimming without a wetsuit can be incredibly daunting when you’ve practiced all season in that protective neoprene layer. Triathletes tend to rely on their wetsuit for buoyancy and speed- a non-wetsuit race can send even the most experienced athletes into a panic. However there’s no need to let the lack of rubber ruin your race, here are some tips to bear in mind if you are faced with a non-wetsuit triathlon…

Get in some practice

If time allows, head over to your local lake for a few training laps in just your trisuit. Get used to the feeling of the water on your skin as you move through the water- it’s quite a different sensation. You will be less buoyant and may need to consider your body position in the water, remember to keep your head, hips and heels in line.

Trust in your training

Remember that you are more than capable of swimming the distance. Look back over your training and remind yourself of the miles you’ve swam in the pool all without a wetsuit- you can do it!

Control the controllables

The water temperature is a factor completely beyond your control– don’t waste vital energy worrying about it. Focus on the aspects which you can control- your nutrition, your equipment and your attitude.

Be prepared

Usually the call is made on race morning regarding the use of wetsuits, so it’s worth bringing yours incase there is a last-minute change. The weather is unpredictable and an unexpected cold spell might mean that wetsuits are an option once again.

Think of the positives

Without a wetsuit, your transition times will be quicker- no more fumbling with the zip as you come out of the water. You won’t get any chafing around your neck and you won’t have to rinse and dry your wetsuit after the race.

Relax and enjoy

Swimming is always more effortless when you relax. Tensing up will hinder your stroke and prevent you from gliding through the water. It’s rare that we get to swim non-wetsuit in the UK so make the most of the opportunity before the lakes return to icy temperatures!

Have you ever swam non-wetsuit in a race? How did you get on?

Swimming the Solent with Aspire

Swimming the Solent with Aspire

I’m not sure where I first came across the idea of swimming the Solent, but I knew immediately that this was an event to be added to my bucket list. I’m fascinated with channel swimmers and I’ve followed the journeys of Adam Walker and Beth French on their Oceans 7 challenges. Swimming the English Channel not something I’m anywhere near ready to attempt, but the Solent seems far more achievable.

If your dreams don’t scare you, they aren’t big enough….

I’ve got several sprint and olympic distance triathlons lined up this summer. I’m completed these distances many times before and whilst they are still a challenge, they no longer scare me. I needed something which would push me out of my comfort zone and really test my capabilities. The Solent swim presents me with that challenge. It’s a busy shipping lane, swimmers need to negotiate around ferries and hovercraft travelling to the Isle of Wight. There will be strong tides, jellyfish and the water could be as cold as 15 degrees. Just thinking about it gives me butterflies in my stomach so I knew I had to do it!

I did a lot of research and spoke to several people who have completed the Solent swim. Aspire came highly recommended as the charity who have the most expertise in organising these events. I’ve already completed a pool-based swimming event for Aspire, so I’m familiar with their work. After more months of deliberation, I finally signed up to do the swim with a planned date of 2nd September 2017.

The swim goes from Fort Gilkicker in Gosport to Ryde on the Isle of Wight. It’s a distance of 2.5-3 miles depending on tides and I will be escorted by a RIB (rigid inflatable boat) and a kayak. I will definitely be wearing my wetsuit! There is a training day in Dover in July where I will be completing a 2 hour sea swim as preparation.

Swimming the Solent

Aspire is a national charity that provides practical help to people who have been paralysed by spinal cord injury. People affected will lose muscle and sensory control and the majority become full time wheelchair users for the rest of their lives. Through its projects and programmes, Aspire offers practical support to the 40,000 people living with a spinal cord injury in the UK so that they can lead fulfilled and independent lives in their homes, with their families, in work places and in leisure time.

Before the date of my swim, Aspire require a guaranteed £750 in fundraising. I’ll be honest, I was unsure that I could meet this target and I hesitated to sign up incase I fell short. However, swimming for a charity is going to be an incredibly rewarding experience, it’s a chance for me to make a real difference to people affected by spinal cord injury. It is also extra motivation to train and complete the distance on the day.

On that note, if you would like to make a donation to my fundraising target I would be eternally grateful. You can donate via this link. It is difficult at this time of year when so many people are running marathons for charities, so even the smallest donation would be appreciated.

What did challenge are you taking on this year? Do you have any fundraising tips?

5 of the best open-water swimming venues

Open Water Swimming Venues

Summer is almost over, but there is still time to squeeze in some more open-water swimming before the temperature drops. I’ve enjoyed exploring different swimming venues over the past few triathlon seasons, here are five of my favourites:

Trifarm, Boreham, Essex
Trifarm is complete facility for triathlon training with a purpose built lake, 1km running track, transition area and 10km cycle route from the gate. The lake has a marked 800m course plus it’s fairly shallow, well-supervised and you are able to exit easily from any point around the perimeter. There’s changing rooms, portaloos and most importantly a variety of delicious cakes for sale!

Trifarm tends to be my first choice for open-water swimming and my most frequently visited facility as I’m not restricted by the opening times. The venue is open 5pm-8pm on weekdays and 8.30am-2pm on weekends, between April and October. Individual swims cost £7, but a season pass works out cheaper.

Trifarm

Redricks Lakes, Sawbridgeworth, Hertfordshire
Redricks was a new swimming venue for me this summer, but RG Active have been running sessions there for a number of years. Coached sessions take place on Wednesdays at 7pm and Saturdays at 8.30am, although you can just turn up and swim on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. There’s changing rooms and a cafe on-site selling the all important post-swim snacks. The 750m swim course is marked by buoys in a triangular shape. I did find that the water was murky with tiny pieces of pond-weed, but otherwise a fairly pleasant swim.

Redricks Lake

Stubbers Adventure Centre, Upminster, Essex
Swim for Tri operate sessions at Stubbers on Saturday mornings for both beginners and advanced swimmers. It’s an early start- registration is from 6.30am, but worth it to watch the sun rise over the lake. The loop around the edge by the outer buoys totals almost a kilometre. After your swim, there’s hot drinks and biscuits plus shower and changing facilities. I’ve haven’t made it to Stubbers this summer, but it was firm favourite in 2014 and 2015. It’s £10 for an individual fitness swim or you can buy a block of sessions.

Stubbers Activity Centre

Lee Valley White Water Centre, Waltham Cross, Hertfordshire
The former site of the 2012 Olympic canoe slalom makes for a stunning swimming venue. Although the course is fairly short at 500m, the water is very clear and shallow- you can see the bottom all the way around. They host an evening aquathlon which I’ve taken part in twice- the lake swim is followed by a 5.5km run along the Lee Valley canal. The lake is open for swimming every Tuesday 7pm-8pm, except when the aquathlon is held. It’s £5 per individual swim. The Terrace Bar and Cafe is lovely for relaxing after a swim and the changing facilities are the best of the venues I’ve visited.

Lee Valley White Water Centre

London Royal Docks, London
Using the same body of water as the London Triathlon, the Royal Docks offer a 400, 750m or 1500m swim course. It’s necessary to buy an NOWCA wristband before your first swim at a cost of £10, then it is £8 per swim afterwards. The docks are open every day except Tuesday. Be aware there are no showers and the changing facilities are limited. If I worked in London, this would be an ideal venue to swim after a day at the office.

Royal Docks Swimming

 

I’m also keen to try out the West Reservoir in Stoke Newington, London but haven’t managed to get there this season.

Do you have any favourite open-water swimming venues? 

Swimming Masterclass with Richard Stannard

Richard Stannard

Beginning swimming lessons three years ago was genuinely one of the best decisions I’ve made. Being confident in the water has lead me onto so many things I never would have previously considered, including finishing a half-ironman triathlon and planning to swim the Solent next year.

Now that I swim with a masters group and a triathlon club, it’s easy to forget how far I’ve come in three years. When I took those first tentative steps onto the poolside at an adult swim school, I was nervous about putting my face in the water and self-conscious of wearing a swimsuit in public. Supportive and patient instructors helped me to develop my swim skills, technique and confidence. According to the ASA, over nine million adults in England are unable to swim. I actually often consider taking qualifications to become a swim coach myself and helping other non-swimmers discover a love of the water.

Sometimes it’s good to go back to basics and learn to swim as a complete beginner. Last week, I had the chance to take a swimming lesson with Richard Stannard and Jas Thorpe at Fitness First Hammersmith. Richard was a professional triathlete for 20 years and has won 7 world titles during his career. I’m always keen to get as much advice and input on improving my stroke, so I jumped at the chance to attend the session. The pool at Fitness First is short and shallow making it perfect for beginner lessons as the water is not too deep that you cannot touch the floor at any point. The ambient glow from the pool lighting creates a relaxed atmosphere.

Before we even got into the water, I learned something new- I’ve been wearing my goggle strap too low all this time. It should be placed higher around the head at the broadest part. Turning up to work in the morning with goggle marks around my eyes has become the norm for me, so hopefully making this adjustment it will reduce this problem!

Richard Stannard

The front crawl technique was broken down into bitesize chunks with Richard providing demonstrations. It’s always inspiring to watch a pro athlete in action gliding effortlessly through the water. We began swimming a few lengths focusing on body position, aiming to keep our head, hips and heels in a straight line. Richard complimented me on my body position which was nice to hear!

Triathletes are notorious for neglecting to use their legs whilst swimming, but I actually find that kick drills are my favourite part of a swim set. I could quite happily use my kick board all day long! Richard emphasised that an effective kick starts at the hips with straight legs and pointed toes. We swam a few lengths concentrating on engaging our glutes and creating small, quick kicks without bending our knees. A tip I’ve heard before is to imagine your big toes rubbing together as your feet move up and down side-by-side.

Richard Stannard

Finally we moved onto our catch and pull technique. This is the area which I struggle with the most- I’m always told that I drop my elbows and therefore don’t create enough leverage to pull my body through the water. We floated in the pool moving our hands in a figure of eight motion to get a feel for the water then Richard explained how rolling your shoulder inwards activates your lat muscles. He suggested visualising a large barrel under your arm as you reach and pull through the water. It still didn’t quite click with me but Richard assured us that this part of the stroke can take years to get right. It’s something that I will continue to work on!

Richard Stannard

The group of bloggers was a real mix of abilities and everyone made noticeable improvements during the hour session under Richard’s guidance. I really hope everyone is inspired to keep swimming as it has so many health benefits. For more information on swim coaching, check out The Triathlon Training Centre.

Thanks to Abbi at Upraised Living for the images.

Can you swim or have you ever taken lessons?