Making the leap from pool swimming to the open waters of the English Channel is no small feat, especially when you’re training for the SwimTayka English Channel Relay to France. However, by following some straightforward safety protocols, the allure of the Channel’s choppy waves becomes increasingly within your grasp.
Adjusting to Temperature
As avid pool swimmers, one of the most significant challenges you’ll encounter is adjusting to the water temperature, which in the Channel can range between 15 to 20 degrees Celsius in summer months. Although colder than a standard swimming pool, don’t let this dissuade you. You might consider wearing a specialised swimming wetsuit designed for buoyancy and thermal insulation whilst allowing for unrestricted strokes. For those who prefer a bit of tradition, simply wearing a standard swimsuit and giving your body time to acclimatise can also work wonders.
Selecting Your Training Venue
While the final destination is the waters between England and France, your initial training can occur in various types of open water across the UK, such as rivers, lakes, and the sea. Numerous venues cater specifically to open water swimming, offering lifeguard supervision and introductory training sessions. Given that open water swimming is one of the UK’s fastest-growing sports, you won’t be short on options.
Building Your Swim Community
If your training takes place in areas without lifeguard patrols, always swim with a partner and inform others of your expected return time. Before setting off, make sure to account for variables like currents and tides. Joining local open water swimming groups on social media or connecting with swim clubs can provide invaluable local knowledge, ensuring you find the safest and most effective training spots. You may even find a few mates eager to join your training sessions.
The Importance of Dry Bags
Easing Into the Water
As you approach your training swim, enter the water in a gradual manner to acclimatise your body. Quick submersion in colder water can lead to decreased limb blood flow and a spike in breathing rate. A cautious entry reduces risks such as cold water shock or unseen underwater hazards.
Visibility is Key
In busy open waters, visibility is paramount. Always wear a brightly coloured hat and consider using an inflatable tow float attached to a short leash. This makes you easily identifiable to other water users. Certain tow floats, like the Swim Secure Tow Donut, even come with waterproof compartments for valuables, adding an extra layer of convenience to your swim.
Initially, keep your swims short and gradually build up the duration as you become more acclimatised and skilled in handling varying conditions.
Recognise Your Limits
If you start to feel cold or fatigued, it’s time to end your swim session; these could be signs that your core body temperature is dropping. Have warm clothing and a hot drink prepared for when you exit the water. However, steer clear of alcohol as it accelerates heat loss.
By following these guidelines, you’ll be well-prepared for the ultimate goal: completing the SwimTayka English Channel Relay to France. Onwards and upwards!