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2016-07-10 10:30 AM

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Subject: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
I am looking for suggestions on how to keep myself calm during the swim.
I am not sure if it's the busy water, the adrenaline at the start of the race or my overactive imagination but I always end up with a sense of panic during the swim. What makes this extra frustrating is that I'm a comfortable swimmer! I spend all summer at the lake, love the water, swim across the lake a couple times a summer, etc. I have no fears of the water/swimming but as soon as the race starts, I just lose it and my anxiety kicks in and I end up breast stroking for a bit and losing time trying to refocus. Swimming/being in the water is one of my favorite things but it's easily the part of the race that derails me the most.
The last race I did the swim really kicked my butt. My goggles were fogging, which added to my freak out and when I went to fix them, they fell apart and I ended up having to do most of the swim with my goggles in my teeth and breast stroking to keep the water out of my contacts. Which, now in retrospect and combined with the rest of the disastrous race, is a little funny but not really how I want to have my swim leg go.
Anyone have any suggestions for getting my mental game on track during the swim because this sucks!

Edited by dramaqueenjs 2016-07-10 10:41 AM


2016-07-11 6:59 AM
in reply to: dramaqueenjs

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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
Originally posted by dramaqueenjs

I am looking for suggestions on how to keep myself calm during the swim.
I am not sure if it's the busy water, the adrenaline at the start of the race or my overactive imagination but I always end up with a sense of panic during the swim. What makes this extra frustrating is that I'm a comfortable swimmer! I spend all summer at the lake, love the water, swim across the lake a couple times a summer, etc. I have no fears of the water/swimming but as soon as the race starts, I just lose it and my anxiety kicks in and I end up breast stroking for a bit and losing time trying to refocus. Swimming/being in the water is one of my favorite things but it's easily the part of the race that derails me the most.
The last race I did the swim really kicked my butt. My goggles were fogging, which added to my freak out and when I went to fix them, they fell apart and I ended up having to do most of the swim with my goggles in my teeth and breast stroking to keep the water out of my contacts. Which, now in retrospect and combined with the rest of the disastrous race, is a little funny but not really how I want to have my swim leg go.
Anyone have any suggestions for getting my mental game on track during the swim because this sucks!


It was most likely the washing machine effect that put you into a panic. Next race try to start on the outside more where there are less people.

In the beginning take long deep strokes and concentrate on your form, this will help you get into your rhythm and ignore some of the chaos going on around you.
2016-07-11 7:21 AM
in reply to: dramaqueenjs

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Master
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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
I would advise you to wait 30-60 seconds after the gun goes off to start your race. The clean water, lack of contact and more controlled environment will likely have you going faster for the swim, even taking in to account the time you lost by waiting.

I was thinking about how comfortable I have become in the melee of a swim start. I have come to the conclusion that the real turning point for me came when I started doing flip turns....... I know this is a sensitive subject, but when I finally got comfortable with the breath holding required to execute flip turns though out my swim training, missing a breath or two because of group contact became much less of an issue. Of course, swimming 400,000 to 500,000 yards per year for the last half decade hasn't hurt either.
2016-07-11 7:45 AM
in reply to: wannabefaster

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Champion
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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
In addition to the other points - are you wearing a wetsuit and how does it fit? If you are very comfortable in the water without and wetsuit, that could be a contributing factor on race day. Spending some time swimming in your wetsuit in more relaxed conditions can help with this as you get used to the extra constriction.

If you are without a wetsuit, then waiting until all or most swimmers have started is probably your best bet - get some clear water, settle in and hopefully avoid the panic.

Shane
2016-07-11 7:52 AM
in reply to: 0

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Expert
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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
How many races have you done?

Every time I do something new (this year....I've done my first open water swim - 500 m.....my first open water 1500 m.....my first open water 1.2 mi......my first open water ocean swim 1/3 mi.....and my first open water swim without a wetsuit) the fear diminishes.

It gets easier, the more you do it. That's all I've got for you. I am NOT a comfortable distance swimmer and I especially don't feel the love when I'm not in a wetsuit. But, like I said.....it gets better as you do it more.

Good luck.

Edited by nc452010 2016-07-11 7:53 AM
2016-07-11 8:43 AM
in reply to: dramaqueenjs

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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
I know exactly how you feel. The 'panic' feeling can happen for lots of reasons and you need to do your best to stay in control and minimize the likelihood that it will happen.

1-Make sure you are calm and relaxed, as much as possible, by taking care of everything you can ahead of time. Make sure you have enough time and are not rushed to get to transition and get your wetsuit on. Put a layer of baby shampoo on the inside of the goggles in transition and gently rinse them when warming up to eliminate fogging.

2-Make sure you put the wetsuit on and are comfortable. Take the time you need to pull it all the way up and eliminate any pulling/tight feeling from it not being high enough. Take care around the shoulders if using a full and consider some body glide around the neck and sides of the chest to help minimize friction a bit. Get water inside it also once you warm up.

3-Get in the water early for swim practice and do a nice SLOW warmup first. Think in your head how you are going to go slowly for the first 5 minutes until your body is warmed up and you are comfortable. Know there will be some contact and try to anticipate that in your thoughts and 'be ok' with it.

4-Start at the sides/edges of all those around you, or 30 seconds after the pack starts. Take a few deep breaths prior to the start and know that it's going to be a good day of triathlon and you've done this before.

5- Begin very slowly and methodically, trying to stay as relaxed as possible. Do not go out too fast! You will not win the race by going fast and can wreck it by going too fast. The key is to keep the breathing rate as slow and comfortable as possible. I know if my breathing goes up because I'm panicking, I need to get control and just blow all my bubbles and keep calm. If you start to hyperventilate and stack your breaths, you can go over the edge. *(If this happens, no worries, flip on your back and float for 30 seconds taking slow breaths and do not resume swimming until you are breathing normally)

6-If you are swimming in cold water or have any issue with exercise induced asthma, do a short run warm up prior to the swim.

I've had a panic attack in almost half of my race swims, thanks to over-exuberance: quick pace; asthma; uncomfortableness with the wetsuit, getting kicked/dunked etc but it all comes back to having control of yourself. I've now been at triathlon for 5 years and still had brief panic attacks in 2 of my 5 races this year. Both times, I just flipped over-got control and then resumed the race. Keeping the pace slow for the first 5 minutes and keeping the breathing comfortable have been the two main keys for me of late and I'm happy to have had my best swims lately.

Good luck.


2016-07-11 11:48 AM
in reply to: dramaqueenjs


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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
I'll echo a few of the biggies listed above:

1) spend more time swimming in your wetsuit.

2) spend more time swimming in crowds. Not following in a lane, but side by side in a pack (find OW swims in your area)

3) do a longer prerace warmup, include letting a little cold water into your suit, submerging your head for a few seconds, and some deep breaths. Also, practice the exact same warmup many many times, with the steps in the exact same order (kinda like a golfer's pre swing routine) until you get to the point that doing the routine sets your frame of mind right. It works really well for a lot of sports to erase those jitters.

2016-07-11 5:15 PM
in reply to: dramaqueenjs

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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
Great responses, especially the above two lists. For me, I would also add the "Accept it" rather than fear it. As an analogy, there are people that break out into sweat and jitters before public speaking. Trying to stop those symptoms only seem to make it worse. Instead, reframe it as "This is my body telling me that it is ready to go"

Know that your heart rate, difficulty getting smooth breathing, a scary sense of fatigue, cotton mouth and a bunch of other symptoms while crazy are your body's message to you that it gets the seriousness of what you are asking it to do.

Knowing and accepting that this is a part of your racing actually may heighten your performance if (if) you can use it to fuel you rather than cause doubt or waste a bunch of energy trying to push it away.

I'm ready to erase what I just wrote because it doesn't make too much sense and sounds a bit strange but I'll leave it hoping you can find some wisdom.

I feel sick and then I have to really focus my brain at the start of races to get in the grove. Key is to expect it, accept it and do things to get through it.
2016-07-13 10:47 AM
in reply to: cbrave

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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
Thank you to everyone for the wonderful pointers. It's all very helpful advice. I went for a long swim in the lake the other day -- 2550m and felt a bit of the same panic when I started. I think I have decided that part of it is my overactive imagination and when I can't see the bottom of the lake, my sense of claustrophobia kicks in and I start to envision things popping out at me in the water (stupid, I know).
I love the "accept it" idea is a wonderful one and I think I will just roll with it. Everyone's suggestions and things to think about are very helpful. My claustrophobia does not like the wet suit much so I'm going to swim in it a few more times before the race in a week and a half to try to get a little more settled in it.
I plan to re-read the advice a couple of times before the race and also before my next swim so that I can put things in to practice.


Thank you
2016-07-13 10:55 AM
in reply to: dramaqueenjs

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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
It may sound silly, but I sing in my head "Embrace me" by Frank Sinatra. We sang that song with my choir few years ago and the lyrics are still in my head. I have no idea why this particular song, it just came to me one day and I stick to it. It is pretty slow and calm song, so when I start swimming it gives me a nice rhythm - I don't start too fast. I just move my arms with the song. It is also nice distraction for my brain. Once I am done with the song I am already in a water swimming, so the fear is sort of gone. If I need to, I go back to the song again. This way I don't think about the crowd, the fogged goggles, how far I am etc. And I am in a good tempo.
2016-07-17 3:16 PM
in reply to: marysia83

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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
I love the idea of singing a song in your head!! I'm a dancer/dance teacher as well and music has a massive influence on me. I will have to find a song to sing in my head


2016-07-17 9:52 PM
in reply to: #5190218

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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
Plenty of good advice already given. Btw, I use baby shampoo too...works like a charm.

If you do a lot of your swim training on your own you won't be use to swimming with people close to you. Open water swims with a group or masters swim practices give you the opportunity to swim in close proximity to others. In masters we'll even practice going 3 or 4 wide down a single lane to give everyone a sense of what a mass swim start feels like. We'll usually bang a few arms along the way but you eventually get use to a bit of contact...it's good prep for race day.
2016-07-24 6:34 PM
in reply to: JoelO

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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
Thank you to everyone for the incredible advice!! I am proud to say that today I swam without and panic in the swim! I took the great advice of "accepting it", and started myself a little back in the pack. I was able to stay calm and focused by singing "uptown funk" in my head. It's much better to be the person swimming past/over the others than to be the one being swam over
2016-07-25 8:03 AM
in reply to: wannabefaster

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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
Originally posted by wannabefaster

I would advise you to wait 30-60 seconds after the gun goes off to start your race. The clean water, lack of contact and more controlled environment will likely have you going faster for the swim, even taking in to account the time you lost by waiting.

I was thinking about how comfortable I have become in the melee of a swim start. I have come to the conclusion that the real turning point for me came when I started doing flip turns....... I know this is a sensitive subject, but when I finally got comfortable with the breath holding required to execute flip turns though out my swim training, missing a breath or two because of group contact became much less of an issue. Of course, swimming 400,000 to 500,000 yards per year for the last half decade hasn't hurt either.


You know, the flip turn idea might work. When I learned to roll a kayak, my instructor just kept telling me to "slow it down", meaning to get my thoughts under control, suppress any urge to panic, and make my body do what it needed to do. Normally to slow things down, I take a deep breath, but that really is a bad idea when you are strapped into a kayak upside-down underwater. When I got freaked out during swims because people kept bumping into me or I got kicked, I would remember to "slow it down", and it always worked. I was trying to think of a way to learn that without a kayak, and the flip turns might do the trick.

I also know people who have swam with buddies who would randomly grab their legs, bump into them, etc... on purpose to simulate race day.
2016-07-25 7:29 PM
in reply to: dramaqueenjs

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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer

Originally posted by dramaqueenjs Thank you to everyone for the incredible advice!! I am proud to say that today I swam without and panic in the swim! I took the great advice of "accepting it", and started myself a little back in the pack. I was able to stay calm and focused by singing "uptown funk" in my head. It's much better to be the person swimming past/over the others than to be the one being swam over

Really glad it worked out for you I've seen open-water swim panic happen to most people, regardless of how experienced they are in a pool.

A few more pointers for you and anyone else reading:

Open Water Swimming (OWS): M.A.P.S. to get ready

http://www.beginnertriathlete.com/cms/article-detail.asp?articleid=2469

 

2016-07-26 9:48 AM
in reply to: IndoIronYanti

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Subject: RE: Swim Panic but experienced swimmer
I still get this about 1 of these a year even though I have raced a ton. I know how to calm myself down once it happens but it takes about a minute.


MY 2 keys are

Make sure wet suit is not constricting around the neck area.

Keep a good warmup in that raises my heart rate high before I swim ( I do a 1/4 Mile fast paced jog t do that)


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