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What is Open Water Swimming?

Open Water Swimming

Open water swimming simply is any kind of recreational or fitness swimming that takes place on any body of water that is not a pool. So, included in this category is swimming in the ocean, lakes, rivers, bays or, ok, even a pond. The common factor is that it is a dynamic environment, without specific lanes, underwater markers and typically the start and finish are separate locations.


Let’s face it, staring down at a black line on the bottom of a pool, taking a couple  dozen strokes, touching the wall and turning around to do it all again can get rather boring. But it is certainly a necessary training tool in cold weather or when there simply is no open water nearby. It is actually very important to incorporate pool training into your open water swimming regimen for a couple of reasons.


Firstly, in terms of safety, you want to be certain that you are capable of comfortably completing the distance of your planned open water swim. Actually you should be able to comfortably swim in the pool at least twice the distance of the open water swim. Many factors come into play in open water swimming that don't exist in pools, like weather, currents, and direction. Always make decisions on the side of safety when it comes to open water because there are no walls or lane lines to hang onto and chances are you can’t touch the bottom. 


Also, the best way to track the progress of your practice and training is to swim in a pool. The ability to track your time is best done in the static parameters of a pool and if you are getting coached-up, they have the best vantage point to help you refine your stroke.  The variables of an open water course make your time from a point to point swim very unreliable. 


How to Start Open Water Swimming

Hook up with a swim club or search for a clinic in your area like Boost Swimming in Northern California that offers clinics in a variety of locations to sharpen your open water skills. Or the Wildwood Crest Dolphins swim team in Southern New Jersey, who train in an indoor pool but have the Atlantic Ocean just 3 blocks away for practicing for the numerous ocean races during the summer. 

 Getting one on one instruction from a professional coach is the best option in terms of safety and improvement. This way a coach can assess your ability in a pool and provide tips on what to expect in open water. They will also have the means to observe you in open water, usually from a human-powered watercraft. This goes a long way in building your confidence to hop into your first swim. 

Google search for triathlon clubs or teams in your area as they are a good resource for connecting to others who already swim in open water and folks like you who want to get started. Open water swimmers know to never swim alone so getting hooked up with a crew for planned swims will also keep you motivated.


What You Need to Start Open Water Swimming

To get the most time in the water, a small investment in a wetsuit will extend your open water season. The swimming specific wetsuits are available in a variety of thickness to keep you warm but they also deliver increased buoyancy to give you more efficiency in the water. Learn about what the water temperature range is for the body of water you will be swimming in and check out a website like Wetsuit Wearhouse that provides plenty of information on wetsuit warmth with experts who can answer your questions.


It is always best to swim with a buoy when venturing out into open water. These buoys comfortably drag behind and are perfect for use as a flotation device to rest on but also come in bright colors that dramatically increase your visibility to boaters. 


The Big Differences Between Pool and Open Water Swimming

Without the black lines on the bottom of the pool to guide you, open water swimming requires that you regularly check for landmarks in the water or on the shore. Once in the water, before setting out on your swim, check for a landmark that is easily detectable in the direction you want to swim. Organized races and events will have large buoys floating in the water to mark the course. It takes a little getting used to but the technique is lifting your head forward for a second before each breath to spot the landmark and maintain a straight course. 


Many people find they are much faster in the ocean or other open water than people who beat them in the pool. This is because open water swimming is much more dynamic and involves other abilities than pure fitness. Learning to play the current, riding a little draft of the swimmer in front of you and becoming better at sighting the landmark will all make you a better open water swimmer. Plus, you’re outside!  You will quickly find that adding open water swimming to your routine will keep you inspired for the days you have to swim indoors.

Health Benefits of Extreme Sports

Health Benefits of Extreme Sports

 A lighthearted look at the heaviest and most extreme action sports on the planet.


Adrenaline and Extreme Sports

Anyone who has ever been involved with sports or outdoor activities has felt what a rush of adrenaline does to the human body and mind. The elation that comes from bowling a strike, scoring a goal, sinking a putt, skiing in powder, riding a wave or even tossing a swish in cornhole, keeps you coming back for more. 


And why not? Adrenaline provides other benefits like increased focus, temporary pain block, antioxidant boost and improved vision resulting from dilation of the pupils.


For some, the heightened state of physical and mental alertness that adrenaline creates, also known as the body’s fight-or-flee response, can be addictive. Thus, we have the term “adrenaline junkie”. We can mostly thank these thrill-seekers, and GoPro, for pushing the envelope of what is humanly possible to create a plethora of mind-bending extreme sports.


A typical exercise-induced adrenaline “rush”, probably seems more like an adrenaline trickle compared to extreme sport participants. But that’s OK. Take pride in knowing that you are sampling the same biological serum, just on a less death-defying level.


Here is a look at some of the most out-of-your-mind things our species has gotten into. 


Go Big Or Go Home: The Top Extreme Sports


Wingsuit

The Wright Brothers were pretty radical for their time. Piloting their aircraft for 12 seconds, covering 852 feet, off the dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, that first flight pretty much changed the world. But if they had YouTube back then and saw a video of a flying squirrel, things could have turned out a lot differently. 


Wingsuit pilots launch off cliffs, mountain tops, helicopters, and airplanes. There is even a slalom course race organized by Red Bull. Hitting top speeds of 200 mph, Wingsuiting is obviously crazy dangerous and was recently voted the sport you are least likely to tell your Mom you are going to do.

 

Freediving

1 breath. 700 feet. That’s the world record for no-limit free diving. Which means the diver is pulled quickly to the depth by a machine on a cable. Freedivers have been recorded lowering their heart rate to 14 bpm. 


There a variety of freediving disciplines as well, with fins, no fins, with and without weights, dynamic apnea, etc. Oh, and Static apnea. That’s where you basically do the dead-man float for as long as you can. Although, not a huge spectator sport, Static also has to go into the extreme category, with a standing world record of 11 minutes, 35 seconds.


Big Wave Riding

Really big wave riding. Like 50+ foot waves that only happen at a few spots a few times a year. The kind of event that jolts the couple dozen surfers in the world who have the ability to catch these monsters, to hop an overnight flight from wherever to get a chance at even catching just one. 


Sure there are plenty more people who have utilized a jet ski to get towed into a world record size wave. That requires skill and guts for sure. But the crew that paddles themselves into a wave that jacks up 4 stories high, making the commitment to push over the edge of a mountain of water are who we are talking about.  With massive risks of wiping out, being held under and thrashed around like a rag doll and not getting to the surface before the next wave explodes on their heads and pins them under for another drag along the reef. Gnarly.



Find Your Own Extreme 

Extreme sports are for a rare breed of athlete. Living vicariously through their jaw-dropping feats may create all the adrenaline you really need. But it is always fun and not to mention good for you, to push the limits once in a while. 


Try something a little-of-the-box to keep challenging yourself. If you are a road runner or biker, give the trails a try. Or maybe you are a rower that sticks to flatwater river courses. Giving coastal or open water rowing a go may really float your boat. 

Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors

Benefits of Spending Time Outdoors

Increasing the amount of time you spend outside has many benefits for your physical and mental health.


Go Outside

We don’t need a scientific study to confirm that being outside makes us feel better. We crave the connection of being surrounded by nature on a bike ride, running, hiking, or playing with the kids in the yard. Even a short walk around the neighborhood or taking lunch on a park bench leaves us with the feeling of accomplishment and a clearer mind. 


But of course, there is also the science behind the euphoria associated with being on the beach, out in the woods, up in the mountains or just simply, experiencing the outdoors. The Nature Scientific Reports journal found that spending at least 2 hours a week outside, exercising or just sitting in a natural surrounding, greatly increases your overall sense of well-being.


Not only does being outside increase satisfaction with your life, but the study cites that benefits to physical health for those that spend the minimum 120 minutes outside are 60 percent more likely to claim good health as compared to people who do not spend any time outdoors. 

Improve Your Health With Increased Time Outdoors

Being outdoors brings other benefits than the obvious inclination to become more active. Many people seek to work around the benefits of outdoor exposure with store-bought supplements when the key to unlocking the body’s natural immune system is just on the other side of that door.


Vitamin D3 

Healthy sun exposure is critical to receiving D3 from UVB rays. Optimal levels of D3 play a role in boosting the immune system and preventing disease. Vitamin D exhibits the ability to fight infections, chronic inflammation, colds, and the flu.


Eye Health

Artificial light and screen time can wreak havoc on your eyes. Many studies show that this is especially true for children. Nearsightedness or myopia has dramatically risen over the last few decades and experts point to a lack of time spent outdoors and the increase of a sedentary, indoor lifestyle. 

 

Improved Quality of Sleep

Spending too much time indoors can throw your circadian rhythm out of whack. Circadian rhythm is like your body’s biological clock that is attuned to the schedule of the sun. Findings from Preventive Medicine show that exposure to green spaces and the outdoor environment increase the quality of sleep. With better sleep, we have more energy during the day to do things like...spending time outdoors!


Ways To Increase Time Outdoors

For those who lead a life enjoying the outdoors, the benefits are an afterthought and self-serving. They are happy because they spend time outside and they are outside because they are happy. Keep them inside too long and the agitation becomes obvious and they need to get out. 


But for those who seek to increase outdoor time and raise the quality of their life, here are a few suggestions.


Plant a Garden

Talk about a double whammy for how to lead a healthier life, gardening gets you active outside and provides a deep connection to the food you eat. 


Build a Horseshoe Pit

Got a little stretch of unused space in the backyard? Put in a horseshoe pit for a great outdoor activity for family and friends to enjoy. Rather than heading to the basement to throw some darts with buddies, chuck some shoes around the yard.


Get In The Swing

Who doesn’t get a big old smile when they see a tree swing


Take Sunset/Sunrise Photos

For those who live at the beach or around water have a bit more bang for the buck on this one but everyone can gain motivation to get outdoors by chasing pics of the sun in its most photogenic moments. Take a walk outside with your phone and capture the first or last light of the day. Your social media friends will thank you.