Training for the Buzzards Bay Swim
The experience of swimming in open water can be exciting, exhilarating, and rewarding. But in order to swim long distances (one mile or more), training is definitely required. Buzzards Bay Swim participant and professional swim coach Mel Dyer of Wareham shares her tips and advice for training for your Swim.
1. Don't psyche yourself out — psyche yourself UP!
Worried about marine life? First and most importantly, the Buzzards Bay Swim will not happen if the water is unsafe. However, you should expect things like seaweed, rocks and shells, and a random jellyfish or two. Just remember that these creatures are more scared of you then you are of them!
Everyone has some kind of fear going into a new event. If you feel anxious, you're not alone! The way to calm your nerves is by prepping in advance. If you’re having first-time jitters, consider swimming with a kayak escort even if you have many miles under your suit. Knowing that you have your own "swim angel" looking out for you can relieve stress so you can apply your energy to swimming instead of worrying.
Mel Dyer (left) is the Aquatics Director at the
Gleason Family YMCA in Wareham.
2. Open water is NOTHING like the pool
Out in open water, you may or may not be able to see the bottom. But if you do, there definitely won’t be any lines on it showing the way to the end! Visibility, temperatures, waves, and weather can all become factors in open water.
Prepare for these situations in advance by swimming in as many different open water conditions as you safely can. Find a beach with waves, such as Horseneck Beach in Westport or Chapoquoit Beach in Falmouth. (For more ideas, here's our list of 8 great spots to go open water swimming in Buzzards Bay.) Swim the shoreline — there's no need to go deeper than your hips. Most importantly, always swim with a buddy (or two) at a beach that is lifeguarded.
2018 Swim Training Clinics
If you’re taking the plunge at the Buzzards Bay Swim this year — or even just considering it — join us at the finish line at Fort Phoenix State Reservation for an open water swim clinic and event orientation. YMCA Southcoast Swim Coach (and long-time Buzzards Bay Swimmer) Brett Pacheco will offer first-hand knowledge of the course and tips for improving your efficiency, stroke, and sighting in open water.
Bring your wetsuit (highly recommended if the water is below 67 degrees), goggles, and questions, and jump in for a group practice swim! Feel free to bring friends that might be interested in learning more.
3. Know your gear in advance
Buying, borrowing, renting, or using a brand new wetsuit or swim suit? Make sure that you take the time to swim in the suit prior to your race and not just once.
Wetsuits come in all shapes, sizes, and thicknesses. Pick the wrong one, and your stroke, kick, breathing, streamlining, or body temperature may be thrown off. There's nothing worse than discovering halfway through the course that your suit constricts breathing or range of motion. Same attention should be paid to goggles and any other swim aids you choose to use.
Lastly, don’t forget to have a towel and some warm, dry clothes at the finish line so you can enjoy the post-swim party!
Where to rent a wetsuit:
- Fast: Splits Multisport in Needham
- Wakefield Running Company (formerly Camire's Athletic Soles) in Wakefield
4. Create a game plan
Prep for your Swim by visually mapping the course before the day of the event. Visit the start and finish line locations to get a feel for the route, note the landmarks, etc. This is a great way to build confidence!
Also, ask yourself a few key questions about your Swim performance. How do you intend to begin the race — at the start of the pack, on the side, or in the rear? How will you finish — strong to the very end, more relaxed keeping a moderate pace, or very carefully to prevent injury as you feel your way up the shoreline? It’s your choice.
"The [Swim] is such a fun, exciting, athletic challenge. It’s a real accomplishment to get to the other side and look back and say 'I swam the Bay!'"
Rebekah Rubin of Cambridge, three-time swimmer
5. Conditioning is everything
Be prepared — swim often, and swim in a way that maximizes your unique skills and strengths. You don't have to be an Olympic open water freestyle swimmer! Just find your stroke and focus on the aspects that work well, while minimizing those that are inefficient. This may mean that you swim breaststroke the entire race — no harm, no foul.
Whatever you do, find a good instructor/coach to assess your current strokes and give you drills, workouts, and feedback that support your growth. Then SWIM, SWIM, and SWIM SOME MORE! In order to do well as a swimmer, you must swim. Other activities are good for cross-conditioning, but they are no substitute for hours spent in the pool.
Your local YMCA hosts a network of pools all across the country that are excellent places to find qualified coaches, lessons, and affordable pool access.
6. Don't worry about the "competition"
The other swimmers in the Buzzards Bay Swim are there for a multitude of reasons — but they are potential friends, not foes. Some might be doing their first open water swim, others are returning swimmers that have swum the course before, and do it for enjoyment, while others are SERIOUS competitors. Everybody has the same goal in common: to safely get to the other side of the harbor!
At the Buzzards Bay Swim (and many other open water events), the event managers group swimmers according to their ability. This allows those swimming “sharks” to swim with the other predators, while recreational swimmers can concentrate on just making it to the next buoy with the company of other swimmers like them. Although you're in the water to do your personal best, nothing says success like good sportsmanship, the camaraderie of your fellow swimmers, and HAVING FUN. Enjoy your open water adventure!
For more open water swimming training tips, check out the following links: