Getting started – Tips for first time ocean swimmers.
We asked an Australian IronMan and the 2018 Bondi to Bronte winner, Kendrick Louis how to go about getting ready for the Swim.
Starting training for any kind of exercise program can be daunting – but what about an organised ocean swim, alongside hundreds of others? How do you even train for that and when is the best time to get started? Well Kendrick is a man of sound advice - when it comes to the ocean swim he recommends there is no time like the present to get started.
“I would advise starting now. I would aim to do three (3) sessions in total per week – two (2) sessions in the pool and one (1) in the ocean over the weekend. Try and do it at the race venue (Bondi or Bronte Beach) if you can to familiarise yourself with the location and conditions.”
And don’t fret if you are new to swimming. The Bay Swim, unlike the full Bondi to Bronte swim (approx. 2.4km) is only 1km and set within Bondi Beach; and is a great way to attempt your first ocean swim, whilst still having some fun on race day. “If you’re new to swimming start with a time based workout i.e. 20 mins and build up by 10-15 minutes each week. Consistency is key.”
While he suggests getting down to the beach on the weekends to get a good mix of pool versus ocean swimming – it seems even the regular pool swimmers can
be found gritting their teeth at the thought of taking on our big blue backyard. So we asked – as someone who is regularly in and out of both the pool
and the ocean, what does he find as the main differences between ocean and pool swimming?
“They both have their positives and negatives” he says. “In the ocean you tend to have to adapt your stroke to allow for the conditions, however being saltwater, you [do] float a lot better”. - We like the sound of that!
“In the pool, it’s a [very] controlled environment, so you can focus on your stroke a lot easier. However, you do have to work a little harder when it comes to buoyancy”.
So… focus on your stroke in the pool sessions and you’ll thank yourself as you adjust when you hit the ocean for your swim sessions. Easy enough right? OK, but what kind of sessions should we be doing to get ourselves ready for Bondi to Bronte? [In the ocean] “I would suggest doing the event course/distance before you do the race, this will give you the mental preparation and the confidence you can complete the distance.”
In the pool he recommends working to a tempo. Give this one a try:
5 x 200m with 20 seconds rest between each set
5 x 100m with 15 seconds rest between each set
20 x 50m with 10 seconds rest between each set
And/or adjust rest if needed.
He also recommends mixing up the laps by adding in some training aids like a kick board, pull buoy and hand paddles, which he uses to help him focus on strengthening key areas of his swim and to help improve his technique.
What about out of the pool? What can we do outside of the water to help us prep ourselves for race day? Other than the usual forefront of mind options
alike diet, Kendrick recommends mixing up the swim sessions with some running:
“I find running helps a lot with my swimming. Breathing and fitness is a huge part of swimming” and he has found great benefits in his performance by cross training.
All-in-all his race day prep work doesn’t seem so overwhelming, but we wanted to dive a little deeper and find out what the main skills needed for ocean
swimming are and also try and find out his top tips for working on them in the lead up.
“A big thing to practice is breathing and looking where you are going at the same time.” I’m sure we’ve all been there at some stage or another, where we’ve looked up in the pool and realised we’ve swerved a little from one lane rope to the other – but what about the ocean where there are no lane ropes?! Kendrick says the skill sounds a lot more technical than it actually is. Concentrate on it as part of your swim practices (simply pay attention to where you are going) and he says the best way to hone in on this skill is to get into the ocean and get swimming- Practice, practice, practice!
Now when it comes to race day we know we won’t be alone, and whether you are used to swimming individually or as part of a group, we generally tend to
have a fair bit of our own space (for lack of better words). But on race day, we will be taking to the beach with hundreds of others, so we wanted
to know what were his swim tactics when it came to swimming in a pack/wave:
“Do your best to get your own clear water. If you get stuck in a pack, try and get as close as you can to the person’s feet who is in front of you” – without touching them that is. “This will allow you to get into their slipstream and save you a lot of energy”.
Now that’s the type of tips we were hoping to hear!
When it comes to the ocean, we know that the conditions are out of our control – and this might just be one of the most daunting parts to taking on an
ocean swim. But we also know at the event, they are well equipped, constantly assessing conditions and event instructors are protecting our interests.
But still – how do we adjust for the differing conditions?!
Kendrick says practice. “I would suggest you test yourself in a number of different conditions”, “that way you are familiar with these conditions and come race day you know what you need to do for any given condition”. He recommends keeping consistent with your practice sessions and you will give yourself the confidence you need to take on any condition. Keep reassured too that you have an amazing team looking out for you on race day.
So we’ll prep our bodies and our minds for the race, but what do we need with us? What kit forms Kendrick’s essential ‘must-haves’ for race day?
“Wear something you have trained in and are used too”. He swears by his Eclipse Jammers for the compression and comfort they bring him during his racing.
“I also always like to have myself a brand new pair of goggles [on the day], that way I know nothing is going to go wrong with them. There is nothing worse than your goggle strap breaking on the start line due to them being a little old”.
When it comes to polarisation – he says personal preference is key. Opt for a mirrored or polarised lens if the conditions are bright and sunny to help fend off the glare when you are breathing and looking to see where you are going. Whereas darker or overcast conditions can call for a clearer or tinted lens as there won’t be as much glare.
Whilst Kendrick wears Speedo Fastskin Speedsocket Goggles for racing – his team at Speedo also recommend the Aquapulse Max 2 (available in mirror or clear lens) and/or the Futura Biofuse Flexiseal Tri (polarised) goggles as options for a wider lens fit and soft comfortable seal. Wider lenses are great for increased peripheral vision and can bring a lot of comfort to first time ocean swimmers, who tend to feel they can see ‘a lot more’ in the wider fit lens.
For more tips on navigating your first ocean swim, Kendrick will be hosting an ocean swim clinic on Sunday the 10th of November in the lead up to the 2019 Bondi to Bronte swim. The clinic is complimentary to anyone registered for the 2019 Bondi to Bronte Bay or Ocean Swim – be quick though as numbers will be capped at the first 50 persons to register.
To register, visit the B2B training page
To assist you with your training and race day preparation, Speedo is offering registrants an exclusive 15% discount online, and an additional 5% off if you visit a Speedo store any time between now and the swim. Visit www.speedo.com.au to shop (apply code SPEEDO15 at checkout to redeem) or to find a store.
*Proof of registration will need to be provided in order to be eligible to participate in the Swim Clinic.