How to improve your opening leg and conquer your open-water fears

By Bea Hufana

The swim leg is considered the most challenging part of triathlon. Why? Because of the numerous problems that could surface while in the open water.

I also worry a lot behind the starting line even if I’d already been a competitive swimmer back in high school. But as I joined more triathlons, the cliché “experience is the best teacher” became more relatable, too. Like newbie triathletes, I realized that my fears were common. Just by getting through all the experience, I’ve come up with practical solutions to swim fearlessly.

To those afraid of getting hit: Isolate yourself at the beginning

A lot of people like to stay really close to the lane line so they will have a guide. But when the race starts, they all eventually end up hitting each other. I prefer starting farthest away from the lane line to prevent getting hit and going through the hassle of stopping to fix my goggles. I swim straight for a minute or two and when the crowd starts to clear out, I swim diagonally closer to the lane line. During the course of the swim, it isn’t ideal to stay too close to another swimmer. When it comes to swimming behind a swimmer, as long as the fingers aren’t touching someone’s toes, it’s all good.

 I swim straight for a minute or two and when the crowd starts to clear out, I swim diagonally closer to the lane line

To those afraid of deep water: Just keep swimming

There’s nothing really you can do about this. Swimming a bit faster helps though. Just remember that the faster you swim, the sooner you get out of the deep.

To those afraid of getting lost: Use sighting, look at the lane line, and swim beside somebody

Doing this assures you that you’re swimming in the right direction. But when you’re far from the line, the trick is to use sighting. The good thing about sighting is that it works whether or not you’re far from the lane line. As for swimming beside somebody, I do this when the lane line is on my left since I breathe on my right. When I pull and glide on my left, I can see a little of the person beside me. As long as I am pacing with him, I know I’m going the right way. But sight once in a while so both of you aren’t lost.

To those afraid of big waves: Get the rhythm of the waves

Getting the rhythm of the waves will help you know the right time to breathe. It’s also better to just go with the waves rather than stop since this might disorient you.