Q: If you’re not a strong swimmer or are afraid of the water, what can you do to overcome anxiety during a triathlon?
Amy Marsh answers:
A: Uneasiness about open water swimming is more common than you think and is usually caused by the environment around you. Water depth, water temperature and having other people in close proximity to you are all factors that contribute to the problem. They can also lead to holding your breath, which further worsens your anxiety. If your strong will is driving you to dive in despite your nerves, there are a few adjustments you can make to help you move swimmingly.
Before race day: Take precautionary steps to help build your confidence and ease your nervousness.
- Enroll in swim lessons if you’re new to swimming or just don’t feel assured of your abilities. Your local YMCA or community center likely offers organized swim instruction for a small fee.
- Take a stress-relief supplement. Bach Rescue Remedy Natural Stress Relief is a homeopathic option that can help restore a sense of control.
- Slather on a soothing lotion if you’re not keen on taking supplements before a race. A moisturizing body lotion, massage oil or body spray made with lavender can serve as aromatherapy in a bottle.
At the race: Accept that you can’t change the water conditions or mob of people. That’s why you need to focus on what is within your control:
- Slow, deep breathing will help relax the diaphragm.
- Proper nutrition to ensure your body is hydrated and fueled for the race ahead. I suggest sipping on water and avoiding heart-rate-raising caffeine.
- Tune into your body movements by stretching before the race. Once in the water, focus on finding a rhythm with your stroke and maintaining good form. This will help distract and calm your mind.
If you do panic in the water: Flip over on your back for a minute or more, take several deep breaths until your breathing is controlled, then turn over to start swimming again at an easy pace.
Know that you’re not alone. Even good swimmers feel some sort of anxiety in open water swimming. Keep practicing, believe in yourself and know that you can overcome this!
Amy Marsh is a four-time Ironman champion, two-time IronDistance champion, and was named the 2010 USAT Long Distance Triathlete of the Year. Brandon Marsh has been competing in triathlons since 1988, and can be counted on to be a top-10 contender in every event he enters. Got a question about swim-bike-run or sports nutrition for Team Marsh? Email them at email@example.com. ‘Like’ them on Facebook or follow on Twitter: Brandon @BrandonMarshTX and Amy @AmyCMarsh.