How Open Water Swimming Could Transform Your Socially Distant Workouts

If you live somewhere in the country where you have regular access to the outdoors, now is the time to take advantage of that.

As more than a quarter of the states in America report a second wave of rising coronavirus cases and deaths, many cities are heading back into lockdown or at least partially rolling back re-openings of businesses. If the gym is still closed where you are, or even if you just prefer working out alone and in the fresh air, open water swimming is an underrated socially distanced workout that gets your blood pumping and is good for you for so many reasons.

What is ‘wild swimming?’

Open water swimming, or ‘wild swimming,’ is any swimming practice that takes place in a natural body of water as opposed to a manmade pool — think lakes, rivers, and the ocean. Wild swimming is significantly more dangerous than swimming laps at your local pool and for that reason you should make sure to properly train and do all your research before hopping in the water. High winds can create dangerous currents or other weather conditions that can affect swimmers, and there aren’t lifeguards sitting watch over every inlet in America.

In addition to currents, two other factors you should always be aware of when wild swimming are temperature and animals. Freshwater can be extremely cold; it’s refreshing, but you have to know your limits. You should read up on local wildlife before taking a dip in any body of water. You should check for leeches after swimming in many of the Northeastern lakes, for example.

Why do open water swimming at all?

Many athletes prefer the challenge of open water swimming. It’s a more immersive experience, more thrilling, with more variable conditions affecting whether or not you’ll be able to get to your destination. It’s an amazing way to enjoy nature and have an unconventional workout experience. If you’re doing it in the ocean, lots of people swear by the effect the saltwater has on their cardio and skin.

Open water swimming is definitely not for everyone, but it can also be an extremely tranquil and beautiful experience on a level that you just wouldn’t get at a pool. It’s a great skill to cultivate, and once you know how to do it, you can take it with you anywhere.

How do I start?

If you’re looking to get started with wild swimming, here are some helpful tips to keep in mind.

  • Plan ahead for temperature. One of the quickest ways you can become tired in the water is if your body is cold or dehydrated. Always plan ahead with regards to temperature, hydrate before swimming, and wear a swim cap or appropriate wetsuit before getting in the water.
  • Start small. Open water swimming can be challenging and extremely exerting. Do your research and start somewhere with weak currents and shallow water before trying to swim the English Channel.
  • Get connected with local resources. The best experts in any situation are the people doing it every day. Reach out to a wild swimming group in your city to get their advice on what the unique challenges and rewards of wild swimming are in your region.
Tess Pollok
Tess Pollok is a sports writers and social media manager reporting on the latest trends in bodybuilding, fitness, and strength sports. She also focuses on community engagement with our ever-growing social media network.