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Combat Open Water Swim Anxiety

Combat Open Water Swim Anxiety

The swim portion of the race can cause great anxiety for new and experienced swimmers alike. The anxiety can come from different sources, so you need to address it accordingly to overcome it.



Open water swimming requires a higher level of swim fitness than pool swimming. There is no 100% passive way to recover on the swim like the bike and run. You need to understand technique and pacing to get yourself through an open water swim. This can best be accomplished through 1-on-1 lessons with a coach as well as practice in the open water leading up to your race. At Playtri, we get athletes in our Endless Pool so we can provide them immediate feedback based on what we are seeing above and below the water. You will understand a pace that you can maintain while also maintaining good technique to reduce energy expenditure. We also have the longest running Open Water Swim in the DFW Metroplex to get your prepared between March and September.

Schedule your lessons here.



The open water can be daunting. Dark water can cause anxiety because you can’t even see your hand in front of your face. Your mind immediately tells you there’s a shark or a gator just below you and you can’t shake that feeling. Forget about when another athlete or some floating debris touches you! Athletes should practice visualization before entering the water of how they want to swim and exit the water in a calm manner. I recommend athletes practice resetting by turning over on their back and floating or gently swimming elementary back stroke to continue forward movement. They should use diaphragmatic breathing and 4-4-4 breathing pattern to settle their breathing down. They should have positive self-talk and go back to that visualization from before the swim to remind themselves they have done this before and can do it again. When they do all of this and are ready, turn back over and bring it home.



Preparing for the race with appropriate gear including wetsuit, bootie, gloves, and a hood are important for cold races. If you have the gear, you still want to fight hyperventilation by dunking your face in the cold water without goggle for a few seconds until you feel the tightness in your chest leave and feel the sense of calm return before you start the race.

Consider renting or buying a wetsuit for your next swim.


If you have any questions, please email

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