With the weather getting warmer and open water temperatures beginning to heat up the draw to swimming outdoors is back for many of us in the UK and Ireland.
RLSS UK would always recommend that you look for a lifeguarded venue when thinking about where to swim this year, and there are a few things to look out for when you go to an organised venue.
Have you been asked for your details?
The venue should ask you to fill in a personal information form; this can be online or in paper form. They need this in case of emergencies, and it should ask about any previous medical history and an emergency contact.
Have you been asked to wear a wrist band or check-in/out of the venue?
It is important that you understand the check-in/out process at the venue, as they need to be able to identify how many people are in the water at any one time. All venues use different methods for this so make sure you are up to date with the system they are using and make sure you follow it.
Does the site you have chosen have shower and changing facilities?
No – make sure you are prepared and have a way of getting warm following your swim; this could be by using a changing robe. Even though the air temperature is warming up, it is a good idea to have a hat, gloves and warm socks to wear following your swim especially, if there are no changing facilities. It is always a good idea to have some hand sanitiser and face wipes with you, to be able to clean your hands and face before you eat anything.
Yes – make use of the facilities they have there to make sure you re-warm yourself slowly, do not have a hot shower. The temperature change can cause you to feel unwell. Make sure you clean your hands and face properly.
Are there food and drink facilities at the site?
No – take a hot flask of drink with you and, this will help you re-warm slowly following your swim and take something to eat.
What is the swimming course and, how is this marked out?
At the site, there should be a map showing where to enter and exit the water.
The swimming route, with distances, should also be shown to allow you to pick the distance you would like to swim. If you are new to open water swimming, opt for the shorter course, where there is one, to begin with, and build yourself up to the further distances. Most venues will use large and brightly coloured swim buoys, so make sure you keep an eye on these to ensure that you stay on course.
What safety cover is there at the site?
Familiarise yourself with the safety cover at the site, and make sure you know where they are and how to get their attention if you need support or if someone near to you needs support. The safety team will have a plan for what to do if something does go wrong in the water and will be able to provide support quickly.
It is always a good idea to wear a tow float, even if you are wearing a wetsuit. A tow float allows you to be easily visible and, it is also there if you need to take hold of it to take a quick breather. You should also wear a brightly coloured swimming hat, as this also helps the safety team to identify you in the water.
The most important thing to remember when you are taking part in open water swimming is to plan where you are going and who you are going with. Always tell someone where you are going and how long you are expecting to be, never swim alone, it’s much more fun with other people.