Every swim, no matter whether it’s in the pool or the ocean, we start with a warm-up.
I usually tend to skip over that part of training when I write about my sessions, as, honestly, it’s not the most exciting bit. That definitely doesn’t mean that the warm-up isn’t an important part of training (and races, for that matter).

In the ocean, the warm-up serves multiple purposes:

  1. Acclimitisation. Getting you actually into the water, especially if it’s a touch on the chilly side! Many people find themselves a bit breathless when they first dive into cold water, but it does pass. So it’s better to get that over and done with before a race or taking off into deep water for training.
  2. Getting the lay of the land (or the sand). The problem with the beach is that it’s always changing. Banks build up, holes and channels constantly move and reinvent themselves. It’d be super easy to turn an ankle if you charge straight in without doing a quick check of what’s really in front of you.
  3. Other reconnaissance. You can tell a lot by looking at the conditions before you swim, but not everything. Rips, sweeps, fast-flowing channels, waves dumping harder than they look…it’s worth taking it easy at first to figure out if any of these are present and where, then you can adjust your entry and exit from the water, and your choice of where to swim accordingly. In race conditions if you can find a rip either side of the start line it can be well worth running to where that is and riding it out…it can save a lot of time and energy!
  4. Getting your body warmed up and ready to go. I’m no expert on these things, but it does seem to me that starting off a little slower and getting the muscles worked up to intensity gradually would be less likely to cause an injury that going gung-ho straight off the bat.
  5. Get the nerves out of the way. I can get quite nervous before the start of a race…mostly just excitement and build-up of energy, but it can make me a bit jittery. There’s nothing like diving under that first wave of the day to make everything feel suddenly quiet and calm and focussed on the water and the swim instead of the nerves.

The warm-up may not be the most exciting part of your swim, but it’s still something that you should do every swim, training or racing, no matter what.