Deep, dark water….overcoming raceday anxiety

My chest is pounding, my body is throbbing as my legs go numb

Still, little jolts of lightning radiate through my feet as I attempt to maintain a kick. I roll to my back with one thought in mind…raise my hand. I know that raising my hand will signal a kayaker to come to my rescue. But, my arm refuses to move…others are kicking and splashing all around me, I am still on my back feeling helpless and defeated when a single words flashes across the sky…BREATHE.”
As I attempt to take a breath thru the fiery man made storm my eyes water and my lungs burn coughing as I exhale. My second breath manages to send a calming vibe throughout my body without issue, as I exhale slowly the throbbing dissipates and my kick continues without hesitation now that they have acclimated to the chilling 61 degrees of the ocean.
“Race day anxiety is real, and many people train to avoid similar experiences. Think about the strategies you use when you are swimming, what is working for you and what isn’t.”
At the Michael Phelps Skill Center in Saco, the offerings are vast and include a clinic designed to specifically address safety concerns regarding open-water anxiety. The Swim Safe Certified Clinic was created by our coaches in collaboration with Will Thomas, owner of Tri-Maine Productions, to help the novice and intermediate swimmers through an anxiety ridden experience or an in-water emergency by providing information that may be life-saving for you or someone you are swimming with. Recognizing that most swimmers experience anxiety at some point during an open water swim is important. Taking a clinic such as the one offered at Michael Phelps Skill Center i.e. Swim Safe Certified Clinic can prove useful in overcoming anxiety by offering up strategies that can be used to calm yourself so that you are able to make better decisions if the need arises. Education is important, and we will take you through multiple scenarios and provide you with tips and strategies to help keep you safer during your swim.
Most recently Michael Phelps Skill Center was well represented at the Lobsterman Triathlon in October, in which an on-sight clinic was held the evening before the event. 900 people had registered for the event and Jessi Ahart of the Michael Phelps Skill Center was there to review the course with participants and talked about how to prepare for the race. The pre-race clinics provide valuable information and insight to the swim course.
Michael Phelps Skill Center in Saco is a great resource for swimmers of all abilities and ages. You will find a number of offerings including private coaching, clinics, and classes that are designed to develop and improve stroke technique, and endurance. You can reach them through their website www.michaelphelpsskillcenter.com or by calling 207-494-8200.
Tips for overcoming race day anxiety:
• Set a goal, train for the race months in advance not the night before. Take the opportunities offered by the race director to swim the course prior to the event, typically this is offered the day before your scheduled event.
• Review road maps and instructions sent to you in regards to your event, this will help ease the “unknown”.
• Don’t become intimidated by the participant next to you but remember to focus on getting yourself prepared.
• Get in the water prior to the swim; getting your body acclimated to the temperature may help reduce anxiety during the initial start of the race. If you feel your heart racing and you are having difficulty breathing, take a deep breath and blow it out slowly.
• If you are in need of assistance during the race, turn on your back and float while raising your hand high. One of the events safety team members should be in route to assist you.
• Last but not least, relax and enjoy. You have trained hard to participate in this event, remember to keep your goals in perspective.
Wetsuits do more than protect your body from the frigid temperature of an open water swim. They provide a fair amount of buoyancy. If a wet suit is recommended for an event; buy, borrow or rent one. This could mean the difference between finishing and not finishing the event.
Goggles: Goggles are an important purchase. They need to fit you properly, stay on your head but not be too tight. If you are planning to swim outdoors a goggle with UV protection, a dark lens and anti-fog goggles are a great choice.
Swim caps: If you are swimming in a sanctioned event, you will be given a color coded cap to wear during your heat. If you are worried about getting too cold because of the temperature of the water you can purchase a silicone cap to wear under the sanctioned cap.

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