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13/01/24 4

Pools closed. Is it still possible to swim in open water?

With the Prime Ministerial Decree of 25 October 2020, the doors of sports facilities and swimming pools are closed again.

Anyone pursuing competition objectives is already taking steps to obtain “maintenance” programs to be carried out in the living room at home, perhaps purchasing some recently invented tools that help simulate the swimming movement.

Those who love swimming, however, know that there is nothing like being in the water, especially if you want to improve. Let’s not give in to despair! For the entire month of November and especially in the central-south (where the average water temperature is above 20°), equipping yourself with a good wetsuit, a neoprene cap and a little courage, it is possible continue swimming in open water. With 7,500 km of coastline and a multitude of lakes immersed in breathtaking scenery, Italy is the ideal territory for open water swimming.

What are the advantages of swimming in open water?

The habit of swimming in the sea, especially for those who carry out sports such as triathlon, is fundamental. While on the one hand you are helped by a better buoyancy factor (due to the salinity of the water) you have to deal with the waves, the current and an inconsistent water temperature, as well as getting used to rounding buoys or references.

The lake, equally, cannot be called a natural swimming pool: the seabed can be muddy or populated with algae and the absence of waves can hide the presence of other environmental factors or unfavorable currents. In any case, in open waters we always find ourselves faced with small unexpected events or unexpected conditions that can worsen our performance, of which it is important to be aware and accustomed.

But is it really beneficial to swim in open water in the autumn months?

On our beaches and near the lakes, where previously there were deckchairs and umbrellas, out of season we will find sailors and surfers. For those who practice water sports in Italy it is completely normal to train in autumn and even in winter, when the coast is clear and you can benefit from the wind and waves that these sports need. The secret is to gradually get used to the less comfortable temperatures and always equip yourself with adequate equipment.

There are even associations for those who practice “trials”, i.e. swimming in the coldest months, such as Anta which promotes conferences on the benefits of immersing yourself in winter, starting from the prevention of cardiovascular diseases to the stimulation of the immune system.

In reality, it is advisable to approach swimming in open water with the utmost seriousness and caution, especially when the climate is not exactly inviting.

What can I do to swim safely?

Cross-country swimming in open water is not a widely practiced sport. The first disincentive is fear. The fear of open spaces is legitimate and it is advisable to take the necessary precautions.

  1. Swim parallel to the coast, and not out to sea, keeping clear reference points – preferably at a maximum depth of one meter / one and a half metres;
  2. Swim where there is a lifeguard present and organize training groups to never find yourself alone in open water;
  3. Train aerobic capacity and do not dive into open water if our psychophysical or muscular conditions are not optimal;
  4. Check if the safety float is needed (for visibility).

To cope with lower temperatures it is necessary to:

  • Swim in the hottest hours of the morning on windless days, choosing sheltered spots;
  • Bring yourself a wetsuit and a neoprene cap or even winter swimming shoes;
  • Equip yourself with a small automatic tent and everything you need to dry quickly when you get out of the water;
  • Strengthen your immune system with correct nutrition;
  • Gradually get used to this type of training.

What program can I do for open water swimming?

Each of us has different goals and a different starting level. A generic indication on open water training could be to always maintain a good aerobic and cardiovascular base. In this sense, being in open waters is optimal for practicing cross-country skiing and dedicating yourself to long distances. Moderate pace, learning to lift your head to find direction. To emulate what is done in controlled contexts such as the swimming pool, however, it is possible to use a sports smartwatch, such as: Garmin, Fitbit or Polar or rely on reference points placed on the shore or buoys, especially to establish the distances to travel.

Generally, workouts to improve resistance alternate between a warm-up phase and main sets based on repetitions and progressions. An example of training could include a warm up consisting of 200 m free or style, then legs and a further 200 using the pullboy; finally a slow-fast progression on 50 meter pools with 20″ recoveries. After resting for a minute you can move on to the main sets (the training ones) for the coverage of 400 m divided into pools first of 50, then 100 (to be done at race pace) and 200 (also slow-strong splits) aerobic with short recoveries from 10, max 15”.

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