See the nature from a different angle, feel refreshed in cool water, and enjoy the peace around you and your own space. Open water swimming brings some wonderful variety to your everyday life and your swimming hobby. In this country of thousands of lakes, with a lot of maritime coastline, you will have no problem finding water to swim in, if you just have the courage. At the time of the writing of this article, it is summer, and waters are wonderfully warm.
Another benefit of natural waters is that in the summer season, indoor swimming pools are often under maintenance. We recommend you change the pool lanes for the lapping of the waves, at least once in a while.
Swimming in natural waters is such a nice activity that once you have a taste of it (if you already haven’t during the summer/spring), you would like to extend the swimming season even longer. But when it is getting too dark after work and waters are starting to transform into more solid form, it is also nice to start going to the inside pools again.
Thinking of blue-green algae, waters are pretty clean in many places, but the situation varies. You can check current algal situations on the website of Finland’s environmental administration, Environment.fi
Tips: If you are active in the waters in other respects, too, and you are wondering whether it is blue-green algae, pollen, or some other stuff, we recommend to use an easy-to-use test for detection of blue-green algae. You can take the test with you in your swimming backpack or test the water on the shore before getting into the water.
You can do open-water swimming in many ways. Let’s go through some tips and thoughts of the gear you need for different activities. Even though waters are at their warmest in the middle of the summer, it is good to wear a suit if you spend a long time in the water. A swimming wetsuit also extends your swimming season significantly in the autumn (and makes it possible to start the season earlier in the spring).
Isolation is not the only benefit of a wetsuit: it can help you achieve better floating and optimize your swimming posture, depending on different purposes. Leisure and recreational suits are structured in a different way than training and race suits, for example.
@ Kuva: Orca
Swimrun is an extremely fun sport form with different swimming and running sections. You don’t change your clothes between the sections, you do the whole thing wearing one wetsuit.
The design of the swimrun suits takes into consideration the run part as well as the nature of the sport so that there is some extra floating quality to the thighs. All the seamings are done carefully so that they would chafe as little as possible during the run.
Don’t forget the buoy – swimmer’s safe equipment no 1:
A swimming aid, a float, and a dry bag for swimmers and triathletes.
The float supports your weight being simple, efficient, and safe. Thanks to the bright colours, the swimmer is visible in the water. You can put your keys or wallet inside the bag and take them with you. Can be inflated easily by blowing. It is not a lifeboat, but you will get seen easily. The floats have an amazing buoyancy, and it will help you significantly if you need to rest in the water or try to get rid of a leg cramp, etc.
We still recommend to plan your swimming route by avoiding other water traffic and staying close to the shore (or get a friend to row next to you if you want to go further off the shore).
The float is attached to your hip with a strap and thus follows you easily. You can choose between buoys made of PVC plastic and buoys made of TPU fabric.
And even though buoys are watertight, we recommend to keep you valuables in a separate waterproof bag meant particularly for them.
@ Kuva: OrcaSwimming goggles are a must when swimming in lakes and seas. Compared to normal swimming goggles, open water goggles are a little bit larger and their field of view is wider. You can of course use them in swimming pools, too.
Variety for swimming and resistance for training: there are many kinds of training tools available. There are kickboards, paddles, pullbuoys, posture correctors, snorkels, restraining devices, pacers, lap counters, and many other things.
Here are some of the most popular pullbuoys, designed especially for swimrun (with straps to make it easier to carry them with you while running). There are many kinds of basic pullbuoys available. Kickboards, available in many models and colours, are great tools to train your kick technique.
With swim fins, you get resistance for your leg training or fun and fast variety for basic swimming. Choose a well-fitting size: if the fins are too big, they will flap on your feet and you will tense your toes trying to keep the fins on, which can cause cramps or at least a great muscle tension on your feet. Cramps are probable also if the fins are too small: feet will be squeezed causing same kinds of painful problems.
Even if the fin size is good, you can still get cramps especially in colder waters more easily than in normal conditions. That’s why it’s good to remember that when you train fin technique and/or swim in colder waters, you need to keep yourself well hydrated. It has also been said that potassium and magnesium help to keep the cramps away. We don’t know for sure if it’s true, but for me, they really have helped. For hydration, I have taken High5 effervescent tablets. They are easy to drop into a water bottle and they don’t taste too bad either. Works in many sports for me. And to ensure that I get enough potassium, I have a banana in my sports bag (the famous banana in a sports bag! Remember to eat it, don’t forget it at the bottom of the bag. The mess and the smell – not good.)
You can choose the fin size based on your normal foot size. If you are uncertain, choose the smaller one.
For example, the Arena Elite paddle in our selection is an easy and good paddle for all swimming styles. It is easy to train with, and it won't strain your shoulders too much either. If you haven’t swum with a paddle before, train wisely first and find a good technique. If you start swimming hard with a bad technique, you will have pain in your rotator cuff (how do I know that? Well, I just know, and it will take a long time to heal…) Thanks to its small size, suitable also for younger people for their first paddle.
Go and enjoy the natural waters! If you are interested but don't really know where to start or whether you even like it at all, we can be partial and recommend FitPit courses, organised in the capital area and in Turku region in Finland. There are courses from beginners to competition level.
For the elementary course, it’s enough if you can swim 200 m. The rest of the skills will be learned during the course. If you want to become a skilful swimmer, you need to train outside the course, too, but I’m sure you will find people at the course to train with. For experienced swimmers, on the other hand, the course can give new ideas for their technique and friends to train with, too.
If you try once, you will get hooked, I promise. Have a nice and safe time swimming!