• Training

Ready, set, go! Preparing for your first ocean swim event of the season

A quick reminder about how to ensure you’re ready for your first ocean swim after a few months shoreside. Tips for what to focus on from 6-weeks out.

Summer is just around the corner, which means warmer weather, longer days and those glorious blue skies and shining sun we all love.

It also means more days at the beach and a lot more ocean swimming.

While there is no definitive ‘ocean swimming’ season these days, with ocean swimming events happening all year round, the summer months are jammed packed with events nearly every weekend.

If this season has crept up on you and you’re worried you’re not quite ready to journey around the buoys with any great confidence, never fear we’ve got a timeline to help you get ready and set to go.

6 weeks out – Hit the water

Haven’t been swimming as much over the winter months? That’s fine, you’re not alone, but if you are preparing for an ocean swim event, six weeks out is a good time to get back in the pool and start getting those kilometres back in the arms.

Swimming two to three times a week, one to three kilometres a session, depending on your chosen event day distance, will set you up nicely. At this stage, it’s primarily about swimming the laps and getting the distance complete, so don’t worry too much about fancy swim sessions.

Need a fully-guided training plan? See OceanFit’s free online training programs

You don’t have to slog it out on the black line by yourself, ask a friend to join you or find a swim squad to keep you accountable and make getting to those swimming sessions easier (Find a Masters Swimming Club near you).

If you haven’t already, find an ocean swimming group to join at least once a week. Finding a group will give you the opportunity to freshen up on your skills in the ocean, such as; porpoising, diving under waves and bodysurfing to make sure you’re ocean-fit for your event.

You might even find someone doing the same event as you and you can become training buddies.

Looking for swim workout ideas? Check out Speedo’s free swim workouts from some of Australia and New Zealand’s top swimmers, including Ariarne Titmus, Emma McKeon, Zac Stubblety-Cook and Sophie Pascoe.

3 weeks out – Change it up

The event is getting closer now, you’ve got some swim training under your belt and you should be starting to feel fitter and more confident.

Now is the time to change up your training a little bit, you still want to be swimming the same amount of kilometres a week but add some speed work into your sessions. This will help build some strength in your stroke and the variation will better mimic what’s required in open water.

Try sets like these:

  • 12x50m – every fourth 50 hard
  • 6×50 – sprint 15m off the wall then easy to the end
  • 8×50 – duck dives to 25m, then easy the rest of the way

It is also a good idea to add sighting drills into your pool sessions to get used to lifting your head again which in turn will minimise neck strain on the event day. This can be as simple as sighting every second or third breath. Use the black line or diving block at the end of the pool to focus your sighting.

In the ocean, build up to similar distances to what you will be participating in on event day. If you’re swimming one kilometre you want to start adding a one-kilometre ocean swim into your weekly schedule, if you’re swimming two kilometres you want to add in a two-kilometre ocean swim. This will help you on event day as you are used to swimming this distance and mentally you know that you can complete it.

Social groups like the Bondi Salties welcome new swimmers to join them

1 week out – Final preparation

Your ocean swim is just around the corner now, excitement should be building and now’s the time to put the final touches on your training.

Going into this week, plan to do your swim sessions earlier in the week as you don’t want to be too tired from all your training come event day (there’s no need to taper).

Throughout the week, make time to go and scout out the location of the event if you are unfamiliar with it. Find out where to park, look for where the event registration will be and observe the beach and its conditions. Although the conditions are unlikely to be the same on event day, it’s a good idea to see if there are any permanent rips and get a feel for how the water moves around and the waves break.

The night before – Pack and relax

Nerves and excitement should be building now, event day is just one sleep away.

Make sure you are staying hydrated by drinking lots of water and electrolytes if you choose. This will help minimise the chance of getting a cramp.

Ensure your swim bag is packed the night before so you don’t have to rush and you’ll feel confident you have everything you need.

It’s a good idea to include these in your swim bag:

  • Swimsuit (and a spare pair)
  • Wetsuit (if wearing)
  • Two pairs of goggles
  • A spare swim cap
  • Sun hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Towel
  • Vaseline
  • Water
  • Sunscreen
  • A light jacket
  • Light snack

Make sure to work out what time you need to arrive at the venue. The rule of thumb is to usually arrive 60-90 minutes before the start of the event to allow enough time for registration, warm up and marshalling.

It can be busy at the start of events like the Bondi To Bronte

Event day – Take it easy

It’s finally here, your first ocean swim of the season! You should be full of excitement and ready to swim.

First things first, be sure to have a good breakfast to help fuel your swim. Stick to something you’re familiar with eating as you don’t want an upset stomach while swimming (this is also not the day to try fancy gels).

When you get to the event venue, head straight to registration to register and collect your swim cap and timing chip.

Once you’re all registered and ready to go, spend at least 10-15 minutes observing the ocean, visualising what it will feel like in the water and how you will approach your swim.

Last but not least, get yourself warmed up. Have a stretch, do some arm swings and take yourself for a little swim.

Don’t forget to have fun and make the most of your time in the water.

  • Written by Ocean Swims on 1 November 2022
  • (Updated on 4 August 2023)

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