Your First Open Water Event - Tips To Maximise Your Performance On Race Day

Open Water Swimming

Your First Open Water Event - Tips To Maximise Your Performance On Race Day

Ok, so you’ve done the training and you’re well prepared. It’s race day and you just need to execute all that hard work. Here are Adam Walker’s top tips to completing your first open water race.

Ok, so you’ve done the training and you’re well prepared. It’s race day and you just need to execute all that hard work. Here are Adam Walker’s top tips to completing your first open water race.


  • Arrive early to register and receive your race number and get changed well in advance to limit any extra anxiety before the race.
  • If there is any opportunity to go into the water early and acclimatise take it. This will help you relax mentally and physically as you can warm up your arms and legs in readiness for the race.
  • Having a good understanding of the course before swimming it, if you can research beforehand as well as on the day. Have a look at the course, have a look where the first buoy is and if there is a map of the course try and memorise it in your mind.
  • Having a strategy prior to the race. Visualise your swim and how you want it to go. Swim the race in small chunks, focusing on first buoy, then second and so on. Only think about what is required from you, don’t concern yourself with other competitors. Focusing on technique and the end goal can all help take your mind off any potential anxious moments.
  • As it is your first race, you may feel more comfortable being at the back of the pack, however whatever your strategy, creating some space around you is a good idea. Floating around on your front in a sculling like fashion before the start of the race can create space as other competitors won’t want to be too close to you, in case they get kicked. Whereas if you are horizontal in the water, it allows others to get closer to you and on a mass start it can be quite aggressive with arms and legs flying around.
  • Once the race starts, drafting off the swimmer in front can save up to 25 per cent of energy allowing them to break the water in front of you. However, in order for this strategy to be effective throughout the race, it requires finding a swimmer in front of you who is a similar pace to you. It can also help with having to sight less than normal as you’re just following the feet in front. There is a downside if the swimmer in front goes the wrong way or not the most efficient route, so always good to have a look anyway that you’re on the right track.
  • You may have set yourself a target for your first race. This may be just completing the race with speed not being the priority. Again this comes back to your strategy before the race and in time you will be able to work out what your optimum pace for the duration is.
  • When you’re approaching the buoys, try to take the inside line, this is the shortest route and therefore will be quicker. However, be aware that other competitors are trying to do the same and you might find you have a bit of a queue when you arrive there. If this is the case, you will have to decide to slow down and wait or take a longer route around in order to keep going. It depends on the situation at the time to what decision you make.
  • As you turn around the last buoy for the final finish, focus again on what is the shortest route in, as it will be the final part of the race you might decide to increase your speed if your energy allows and give it your all at the end.
  • Depending on the event, you may have to get to your feet and run across the finish line. You will be keen to do this quickly, however it can go wrong if you don’t steady yourself before standing up. A few years back I was competing in a race and I was just ahead of my nearest competitor. I got up too fast and fell over again, this happened three times! I still managed to just get ahead but I felt a little silly I can tell you and lost time as a result.

Picture credit: Martin Charles Hatch / Shutterstock.com