Open Water Swimming Tips for the Great North Swim

The following blog is written by Sandra Gibson, Leisure Clubs Manager at English Lakes.

The week is drawing near and we are nearly there for the Great North Swim. Marquees are appearing – walk-ways are been laid and the sun is out, but I am not sure for how long. Anyway, you’re going to get wet!

The Great North Swim is the biggest swimming event ever to be staged in Britain with 10,000 participants. Hosted at Low Wood Bay Resort Hotel & Marina

I have lived in the lakes all my life and part of growing up was the summer holidays swimming in the local river and yes, the odd dip in the lake.

I have just been reading a fairly interesting article put together by an experience outdoor swimmer ‘John Flanagan’ so I thought I would share a few of his tips.


I’ve found that the best way to sight during a race is to lift the head and look forward as you are turning your head to breathe. You want to limit how high you lift your head because your hips will drop, so try just below the goggle line. Then take your breath when you turn your head to the side.

Time When You Sight

The more you look, the more tired you get. The less you look the less straight you may swim. It is a trade-off, but you need to find what is comfortable for you.

Stay Warm during the Race

I’ve been in races where my body just shuts down because of the cold. Try to avoid it by using everything you can: Wetsuits, two caps and earplugs all help keep you warm.

Goggles Are Critical

They will help you see clearly. If you haven’t got any have a look around the stalls or come over to the Low Wood Club, we have general ones.

Learn the Course

When you arrive on site check the buoys. Look for landmarks, like trees or houses, that will help guide you in a straight line. While you are in the water, you won’t always be able to sight off the buoys.

The Start

If your aim is to complete, and time isn’t the priority then let your group set off, there can be a bit of pushing at the start. If your after ‘time’ make sure you have done thorough warm up – and off you go!!

Learn to Breathe on Both Sides

It is best to breathe to the opposite side when someone is next to you. If not, you might get hit in the face, and/or lose your goggles. It is much worse than a hit in the back of the head.

Draft When You Can

Drafting is a part of open water swimming. It can help you sometimes and hurt you others. You may be able to hang on to a faster group of swimmers, but you may also get stuck behind some and not know how slow you are going.

Eat and Hydrate Well

Take care of your body. It is easy to get dehydrated out in the open water. Drink plenty of fluids, but don’t get bloated.

My biggest tip is ENJOY!

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