General Discussion Triathlon Talk » Help! I panic in the water! Rss Feed  
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2022-06-27 7:44 PM


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Subject: Help! I panic in the water!
I have participated in two sprint length triathlons and three Olympic length. I have trouble every time in the water even when I practice open water swims. It seems to be the wetsuit (I have been through two so far). For my current race, I figured I would wear my wetsuit in the pool to make me more comfortable - NOT! It took me two lengths dog paddling to be able to put my face in the water and then after a few lengths I have to open my collar and partially unzip the back. I was able to swim freestyle after that.

The water for my next race is already 66 degrees and I have two weeks to go. Should I get a tri-suit? Just swim in the triathlon top and bottom that I wore under my wetsuit from my last race? If I get a tri-suit, sleeves or sleeveless? V-neck versus one that is right up against my neck?

As a background into why I have waited so long to have this figured out, I haven't participated in a race since 2020 (breast cancer and most races cancelled due to COVID). In addition, I recently had a total hysterectomy and my doctor only released me for full activity two months ago.


2022-06-28 12:01 PM
in reply to: weeksid

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Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!

Originally posted by weeksid I have participated in two sprint length triathlons and three Olympic length. I have trouble every time in the water even when I practice open water swims. It seems to be the wetsuit (I have been through two so far). For my current race, I figured I would wear my wetsuit in the pool to make me more comfortable - NOT! It took me two lengths dog paddling to be able to put my face in the water and then after a few lengths I have to open my collar and partially unzip the back. I was able to swim freestyle after that. The water for my next race is already 66 degrees and I have two weeks to go. Should I get a tri-suit? Just swim in the triathlon top and bottom that I wore under my wetsuit from my last race? If I get a tri-suit, sleeves or sleeveless? V-neck versus one that is right up against my neck? As a background into why I have waited so long to have this figured out, I haven't participated in a race since 2020 (breast cancer and most races cancelled due to COVID). In addition, I recently had a total hysterectomy and my doctor only released me for full activity two months ago.

Welcome back to the sport. 

Maybe some clarifications are in order. 

Tri-suit:  A 1-piece lycra/spandex garment designed to be worn during all phases of a triathlon.  A tri-suit doesn't provide any protection from cold water.  It is an alternative to separate top and bottoms. 

Wetsuit:  A neoprene garment intended to be worn in cool/cold water.  There are tri-specific designs as scuba wetsuits aren't designed for significant arm motion.  A wetsuit works by trapping a thin layer of water between the wearer and the neoprene.  The wearer can usually heat this small amount of water up with only a slight amount of discomfort. 

A tri-specific wetsuit can be full sleeved, short sleeved, or sleeveless.  The choice depends on the wearer's preferences/tolerance for cold water.  Least "restrictive" is a sleeveless wetsuit, but it also provides the least protection from cold water.  All three styles provide significant buoyancy for the wearer's legs and that's why a lot of triathletes like wetsuits.  66F is certainly quite cold for most people and a wetsuit warranted for OLY or longer swims.  Most would want a wetsuit even for short sprints in water that cold. 

You're trying to do the right thing.  Wetsuits can feel very "claustrophobic" and it takes a fair amount of practice to be comfortable in them.   The more you practice, the better it gets, but...how you approach the practice can make a big difference.  You've already had some "bad" experiences with the wetsuit, so you're mind is predisposed to assuming more practice will be similarly "bad."  Your mind has a way of making that predisposition become the reality.  If you're headed to the pool thinking "this is going to suck..." it's going to suck!  You have to work very hard prior to and driving over to the pool to displace that predisposition with a more positive mindset.  Look forward to the extra buoyancy, and set in your mind an image of a neoprene-black river otter!  Get into the wetsuit, get into the water, and just experiment for a few minutes floating on your back, on your front.  Experiment with putting your face in the water while you're holding onto the wall.  Then...if you want...take the wetsuit off and swim your workout.  Your goal is to end the session with the wetsuit positively, even if that isn't swimming in it. Of course, you'll want to do a few of these and eventually swim in it, but don't rush things...you've got a lot of psyche to overcome and rushing into a "bad" experience will reset your progress.    (As you indicated , swimming partially unzipped is a step towards progress, so maybe do what I'm proposing with the wetsuit partially zipped at first.)

 

2022-06-28 2:22 PM
in reply to: weeksid

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Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!
I had a coach once that gave me the secret to the swim even wearing a wetsuit.
Keep fresh air in your lungs no matter what. It worked. The wetsuit gives you a feeling of panic on top
of naturally wanting to hold your breath. Try to concentrate on keeping fresh air in your lungs even if you need to breath every stroke.....
2022-06-28 2:30 PM
in reply to: Tkimble01

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Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!

I hyperventilate all the time in open water swims, wetsuit or not.  I've had to figure out how to push through it and manage it.  I think I just get too geared up for the swim instead of enjoying it. 

The one thing that helps for me is to finish the exhale and get into some kind of breathing pattern, echoing the previous comment.  I know from experience the tightness is going to fade but it usually takes like 500 yards or so to get there and by then a sprint is over.  I also backstroke a little here and there...I'm not as fast but not terrible at it and it helps control breathing. 

2022-06-29 3:48 AM
in reply to: jmhpsu93


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Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!
d
2022-06-29 7:36 AM
in reply to: 0

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Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!
Originally posted by weeksid

I have participated in two sprint length triathlons and three Olympic length. I have trouble every time in the water even when I practice open water swims. It seems to be the wetsuit (I have been through two so far). For my current race, I figured I would wear my wetsuit in the pool to make me more comfortable - NOT! It took me two lengths dog paddling to be able to put my face in the water and then after a few lengths I have to open my collar and partially unzip the back. I was able to swim freestyle after that.

The water for my next race is already 66 degrees and I have two weeks to go. Should I get a tri-suit? Just swim in the triathlon top and bottom that I wore under my wetsuit from my last race? If I get a tri-suit, sleeves or sleeveless? V-neck versus one that is right up against my neck?

As a background into why I have waited so long to have this figured out, I haven't participated in a race since 2020 (breast cancer and most races cancelled due to COVID). In addition, I recently had a total hysterectomy and my doctor only released me for full activity two months ago.



Welcome back to tri!

I also hate the constricted feeling of the wetsuit. Consider Lava pants or ROKA shorts as a wetsuit substitute-as these do not constrict the chest and allow reasonable buoyancy for the legs

And make sure you have a long warmup and practice trying to stay relaxed. Once the race starts, begin at the edge/side of the group, staying away from the most contact. Consider counting down from 100 while taking slow, steady strokes to sort of distract you in the beginning. Blow out all your air and breathe easily each stroke and believe in yourself and know that you can do it-you have before!

These are things that have worked for me.

Good luck to you.

Edited by dtoce 2022-06-29 7:40 AM


2022-07-08 3:15 PM
in reply to: dtoce

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Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!
I remember it was hard for me to breathe when I first tried wetsuite, but then someone on this forum asked if maybe I am not putting it on correctly. It helped: I took much more time putting the wetsuite on, and milimiter after milimiter I was pulling it up slowly, so at some point I felt I had a bit more space to breath, as the wetsuite had more space to contract (does it make sense?)

What also helped me with panic attacks was: just before the race put your head in the water and exhale: make sure there is lots of bubbles. make sure your face and whole head get a sense of water around it. Having my face and head used to being under water really helped adjusting, and breathing lots of bubbles under water helped concentrate and take away the attention from the panic mode. It is helpful to understand the mechanics of panic attacks: they are supposed to get our body ready for an upcoming danger. Once you show your brain and body that there is no danger, panic attacks are supposed to go away. Thus, the eercise of putting your head under water and bubbles help tell your brain that disaster is not hapening and that you are safe.

One more thing to distract the brain, i count my breaths - at least at the beginning. It also helps with passing time I usually count to 500 and then get bored. But at least at the beginning it really helped.
I also like dto sign "Embrace me" by Sinatra in my head. One run of that song takes me about a minute, so once I'm finished I feel good that I know a minute has passed It also takes attention/distracts me for the first few meters for the race.
2022-07-11 9:39 AM
in reply to: marysia83


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Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!
thank you
2022-07-11 4:13 PM
in reply to: #5281669


2

Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!
First, congratulations on all you have achieved especially in letting your desire to do triathlon be bigger than your fear! I think you may have raced already and I’d love to know how you did!

I am lucky in that I don’t have any swim-fear, but I have legit bike panic! Some of the things I’m doing are pretty obvious and basic, and a few that are new-agey and/or psychology based like:
-Tapping. If you don’t know what that is, look for a YouTube video on tapping technique for fear/anxiety.
- exposure: going out 30 mins a week just to do some practice on some bike skills that feel impossible (cornering, reaching the water bottle, and yes changing basic hand positions). You are doing this to by trying to swim in the pool where you feel safe.
- Lastly, dealing with negative thought distortions. I can get a fear-based unproductive thought that only creates more panic. So one trick is I write the yucky thought on one half of a piece of paper and then a more positive one on the other half of the paper. Then I rip off the yucky thought and throw it away. So I might write: ‘I’m a slow moving hot mess on the bike’ as my yucky thought and then for the more positive one something like ‘I ride at safe speeds for my current level, so I can be a responsible rider and I am improving with every ride.’ Obviously I don’t do this ON the bike, but maybe once a week while journaling. If I could journal while riding a bike I would the best cyclist in the world.

I share these things because you’re not doing anything wrong to make you panic, like swimming bad you’re at real risk of drowning, it’s just your ‘fight or flight’ response is getting triggered, so these are ways to possible help simmer that down.

Good luck!!!
2022-07-14 4:29 AM
in reply to: weeksid

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Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!
hi
2022-07-19 2:52 AM
in reply to: McFuzz

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Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!
Great Post


2022-07-19 2:56 AM
in reply to: Robert James

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Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!
Wow
2022-07-19 8:54 PM
in reply to: McFuzz


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Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!
good advisde
2022-07-23 3:35 AM
in reply to: dtoce


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Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!
good article
2022-08-12 6:15 PM
in reply to: dtoce


6

Subject: RE: Help! I panic in the water!
Awesome advice! I am doing some open water swims to practice and will take this advice onboard.
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