Friday, May 27, 2016

Open Water Swim Safety

Open water swimming is a part of triathlon and just an all-around fun workout! As a coach, I want you to enjoy your experience, but also know that swimming can be uncomfortable in the very least and, in some cases, life threatening if things go sour. Water safety is generally a common sense issue, but when you’re not thinking clearly because you were swimming hard, not feeling well, or even panicking, common sense is often thrown out the window and all you can do is react. Review the following Open Water Swim Safety Tips to help prevent an emergency and read over the Emergency Plans to help imprint in your brain the steps you should take if you find yourself in an emergency situation. These tips could save a life.

Open Water Swim Safety Tips
1.)    Check the Conditions: Check the water conditions, weather conditions, and tides prior to getting in the water. If it seems unsafe, it’s best to wait for the conditions to improve prior to jumping in. Your open water swim can always wait for tomorrow. 
2.)    Never Swim Alone: You should always swim with a buddy. Even if there is a lifeguard present, he/she is responsible for observing the entire scene, not just you. If you are swimming with a group, still have a designated swim buddy. The quicker someone notices a dangerous situation, the quicker that situation gets resolved. 
3.)    Predetermine Your Rout and Workout: Have a predetermined route/workout plan so everyone knows the plan. That way, no one gets lost and knows when the intensity will rev up. Also, include a proper land and water warm up to help the body prep for higher intensities later on in the swim. Going too hard too soon in cold murky water can lead to panic. Building the intensity of your swim slowly can help you become in tune with your body and give you more time to become aware if you aren’t feeling right.
4.)    Fuel Your Body: Hydrate and fuel your body properly prior to your swim. This starts at least 24 hours before your swim! You don’t want to get halfway through your swim and feel sluggish or get a cramp because you did not eat or drink water.
5.)    Wear a Bright Color Swim Cap: Wear a bright color cap so it’s easy for lifeguards and your buddy to see you.
6.)    Take a Whistle: A whistle is easy to carry and can catch the attention of others more effectively than yelling out.  
7.)    Swim with a Flotation Device: A swim buoy can certainly help if you need to take a rest in the middle of the open water.
8.)    Swim with a Lifeguard Present Whenever Possible: An extra pair of trained eyes can never hurt.
9.)    Have a Plan for Emergencies: Common sense is often thrown out the window when emergencies occur. Read over the plan below to etch the emergency plan into your brain so that you know the exact steps you can follow to resolve the issue successfully.

Emergency Plan
If you are in trouble:
1.)    Calm Yourself: If you are not feeling well, stop swimming, float on your back, hold onto a flotation device if there is one and take deep breaths with a long slow exhale.
2.)    Communicate: Even if you just feeling a little off but think you will be fine, tell your buddy or a lifeguard immediately. In the very least, they can watch out for you and help you if you start to struggle.
3.)    Talk to Yourself: Self-talk can help combat the negative thoughts that come with panic. Tell yourself that you have swam this distance before and just need to take it one stroke at a time. 
4.)    Wave Your Cap: If you are having trouble contacting the lifeguard or buddy, take off your swim cap and wave it in the air to catch their attention. If you have a whistle, blow it to help call more attention to yourself.

If your buddy is in trouble:
1.)    Check In: Check on your buddy visually every minute or so to make sure they are not lost or struggling.
2.)    Communicate: Talk to your buddy if you notice that he or she is slowing down or not acting normal. Just ask them if they are ok.
3.)    Sound the Alarm: If your body is not ok, notify a coach or lifeguard as soon as you can. You can do this by yelling out or taking off your swim cap and waving it in the air to catch his/her attention.
4.)    Hold out a Buoy: Give your buddy a buoy if you have one.
5.)    Stay Aware: Do note that if your buddy is really panicking, he or she may try to grab ahold of you, hit you, and/or push you down. You MUST take care of yourself prior to taking care of your buddy. If your buddy is in panic mode, stay close enough where you can talk to them but far enough away that he/she cannot grab ahold of you. It’s best to have a trained coach or lifeguard to help move your buddy if needed. If one of these individuals is not available and you decide to help move your buddy, be confident that you are a strong enough swimmer and can help swim them back to shore.
6.)    Call 911: Once on shore, run to your phone to call 911 or point at someone and tell them to call 911 if needed.
7.)    Vital Signs/CPR: Check vital signs and start CPR if needed.  

Looking for a coach? Contact Jon Fecik at