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Busting The Outdoor Swimming Myths

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Top 10 outdoor swimming myths:

OUTDOOR SWIMMING IS DANGEROUS

False! As with many outdoor activities there are a few safety issues to keep in mind, but with a little common sense, wonderful adventures await.

  • Wear a bright coloured swim hat so you are visible to other water users

  • Don’t swim when under the influence of alcohol

  • Swim within your capabilities

  • Don’t swim alone

  • Know your entry and exit points

  • Assess conditions on the day. If you’re not sure, don’t swim!

YOU CAN ONLY BE AN OUTDOOR SWIMMER IF YOU SWAM FOR A CLUB AS A CHILD

False! Whether you’re learning to swim for the first time as an adult, returning to swimming following years out of the water, or you’re a regular club swimmer, outdoor swimming offers something for everyone.

Making the transition from pool to open water can be daunting for anyone, but there are masters swimming clubs, adult learn to swim courses at local leisure centres and specialist open water coaches that can help you develop good technique and build confidence in open water, in addition to the many friends and informal swim mentors from the outdoor swimming community you will meet along the way!

YOU HAVE TO WEAR A WETSUIT 

False! It’s up to you what you wear! However, some swim events will stipulate that a wetsuit is required or may request evidence of acclimatisation and experience if you're seeking to participate without a wetsuit. Other events will be non-wetsuit only. There’s something for everyone!

YOU HAVE TO SWIM FRONT CRAWL

False! You can swim whatever stroke you like. However, for swim events front crawl and breaststroke are likely to be the preferred strokes. Backstroke is sometimes not allowed at swim events.

YOU MUST COVER YOURSELF IN GOOSE FAT

False! Contrary to the evocative pictures of grease-clad English Channel swimmers of the past, goose fat does not keep you warm. Rather, Channel swimmers train to acclimatise to the water temperature. The main reason for covering your skin in a greasy substance is to prevent chafing, which can be a real issue for swimmers, especially in salty water. Vaseline is adequate for short swims. For wetsuits, it’s best to use non-petroleum based products.

YOU’LL GET TANGLED UP AND HELD DOWN BY WEEDS

Getting ‘dragged down by weeds’ is a common fear for beginners but is extremely unlikely, if not impossible. Nevertheless, pond weed and other plants can impede your swimming and possibly induce panic. Stay calm and gently extract yourself.

I'LL GET ILL FROM THE WATER

The risk is low and most swims pass without incident. However, it is possible to pick up bugs that may cause vomiting and diarrhoea. To reduce the risk, use beaches that meet bathing water standards. In inland waters you need to rely more on your own judgement and the experience of other swimmers. Avoid swimming in rivers after heavy rainfall that might wash contaminants or sewage into the water.

Weil’s disease is also something to be aware of. It’s a bacterial infection that is spread by animals and can affect people. You can catch it through contact with soil or water that’s been contaminated by urine from affected animals. That means swimmers are at risk, but it’s a very low risk.

It's all about common sense: avoid water that looks suspicious, cover cuts, wash your hands before eating, avoid swallowing lots of water, and shower after swimming.

JAWS!

Don’t even think about it…or maybe you won’t be able to help yourself…But rest assured, there aren’t any records of sharks attacking swimmers around the UK. The fear of what lies beneath is something all swimmers contend with. Calm breathing, re-directing your thoughts and building up experience can all help. If you’re swimming elsewhere, do your research and get local advice first before venturing into the water.

YOU’LL GET STUNG BY JELLYFISH AND DIE

The people most fearful of jellyfish stings are those who have never been stung, so celebrate your first jellyfish sting as it will reduce your fear. This doesn’t mean jellyfish stings are pleasant. Far from it. They can hurt a lot. However, experienced swimmers usually find they can cope with the pain and just keep swimming.

THE WATER IS TOO COLD TO SWIM OUTSIDE, EVEN IN THE MIDDLE OF SUMMER

The average sea temperature around the UK ranges from about 8 degrees Celsius in February to 17 degrees in August. Inland waters have a wider range and can freeze in winter and exceed 20 degrees in summer. While cooler than a heated indoor pool, most people can adapt to swimming in typical summer water temperatures.

A more immediate danger is cold water shock. It can cause a sharp intake of breath and a sense of panic. It passes within about two minutes and the more experience you have of swimming outside, the easier it is to manage. To stay safe, it’s best to slide into the water gradually.

 

For more outdoor swimming inspiration and training advice, please visit www.outdoorswimmer.com?

 

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