Barefoot/Minimalist Running: Should You Do It?

barefoot-runningOver the last few years the idea of running barefoot or in shoes that offer minimal support has become increasingly popular.  Should we all change the way we run and do other activities to match this trend?  There are certainly those who would argue that we should.  Lets look at some of the ideas behind this style of running.

First, the foot is allowed to go through a more natural motion when running.  If you were to remove your shoes and socks and watch your feet while you walk around you might notice that your foot and toes spread out or “splay”.  When you wear typical shoes this splay is minimalized.  One of the major arguments in favor of barefoot/minimalist footwear is that this should be happening more.  Minimalist shoes have more space around the toes in the “toe box” to allow this motion.  This extra space can reduce the occurrence of bunions and other foot conditions caused from wearing shoes that are too tight.

Additionally, removing the cushioned sole of a typical running shoe may allow the body to follow its natural tendencies during gait.  Having the heel and the ball of the foot at the same level may also allow normal stretching of the Achilles tendon, which may decrease the occurrence of injuries.

The second major idea behind minimalist/barefoot running is that it forces the body to adapt and strengthen the muscles of the legs.  This may also prevent a variety of injuries.  Since the small muscles of the foot and the lower leg are used primarily to strengthen the long arch of the foot they should be allowed to do their job.  Having an unnatural support for this arch may weaken these muscles over time and result in injuries like plantar fasciitis.

These arguments make sense, but I hesitate to say they are valid in every situation.  Some people already have enough room for their feet to spread in a traditional shoe or they never have problems from the lack of foot splay.  It may also be the case for some individuals that the extra stretching of the Achilles will result in an injury.

In some cases the arch of the foot may be unusually high or low.  This might not be possible to resolve by strengthening the muscles of the foot.  It may require additional support from an orthotic or more supportive running shoe.

I like a lot of the ideas behind this new minimalist movement.  I personally wear a minimalist shoe for almost all activities now.  I like the way they feel and I don’t have any problems as a result of changing shoes.  However, if you are considering changing, transition slowly.  Start by walking in your new minimalist shoe (or barefoot) for just a few minutes at a time.  If this does not cause you problems then you can try running short distances.  If you still have no problems then this might be a great option for you.Researchers are looking into the benefits and drawbacks of these different styles of running.  So far the results seem to be inconclusive.  Some people have reduced injuries when they change their footwear, while others have new injuries.

Mild muscle pain that lasts only a few days may be a natural effect of the muscles being used more.  On the other hand, if you experience new pain that lasts more than a few days, minimalist shoes may not be the right choice for you.
Dr. Eagar
Dr. Eagar is a dual credentialed provider with degrees in sports medicine, chiropractic medicine, and exercise science.  Dr. Eagar owns Active Advantage, a private sports medicine practice with an emphasis on rehabilitation and chronic injury management.  He enjoys answering questions and can be reached at activeadvantagechiro@gmail.com.  For more general information you can visit his website http://www.activeadvantagechiro.com.

Relieving Plantar Fasciitis

plantar fasciitis

Plantar Fasciitis

You wake up first thing in the morning and you step onto the floor. Immediately you feel pain on the bottom of your foot close to the heel. You carefully step your way through your morning routine until the pain begins to fade. Later, you head out for a run. As you begin your run the pain in your foot returns, but you hobble along until it again fades. You repeat this routine for days or even weeks, but eventually the pain does not fade.plantar fasciitis

If this sounds familiar then it is likely you have experienced or are experiencing plantar fasciitis (perhaps better termed plantar fasciosis, meaning deterioration of the plantar fascia). Simply put, this is irritation to the connective tissue that crosses the long arch of your foot. When you stop walking and running (especially when sleeping) the tissue begins to tighten. Those first steps before the tissue stretches back out are the most painful.

Why do some people get this condition and not others? Lack of support for the arch of the foot is the simple answer. In the body muscles and ligaments support joints. Muscles should be our primary means of support, but when those muscles fail in their job ligaments are the back-up plan.

plantar fasciitis arch

The foot and lower leg are filled with muscles that support the arches of your feet. The plantar fascia is a band of tissue, like a ligament, that crosses the whole bottom of the foot from back to front. Its primary job is to assist these muscles in holding up the arch of the foot.

If the small muscles on the bottom of the foot and the longer ones from the lower leg are not strong enough then this may cause too much stress on the plantar fascia and cause pain with regular use. Some individuals may also have unusually high or low foot arches that cause increased stress and result in the same problem.

Ice/anti-inflammatories, stretching, and deep tissue massage can help plantar fasciitis. In order for the condition to be resolved, however, the support for the arch of the foot must be improved. Strengthening muscles can often be a simple solution, but in more severe cases a special shoe or an orthotic may be necessary to provide ample support.

If you are experiencing on-going symptoms of foot pain, don’t wait to get it resolved. The longer you experience the pain, the worse the injury will become. It’s always easier to fix an injury when it’s a small one.

Dr. EagarDr. Eagar is a dual credentialed provider with degrees in sports medicine, chiropractic medicine, and exercise science.  Dr. Eagar owns Active Advantage, a private sports medicine practice with an emphasis on rehabilitation and chronic injury management.  He enjoys answering questions and can be reached at activeadvantagechiro@gmail.com.  For more general information you can visit his website http://www.activeadvantagechiro.com.

Chronic Injuries and Sports Massage

For many athletes, the injuries that have the greatest long-term impact are chronic injuries or injuries that occur over time with no obvious incident.  Chronic injuries include things like patellar tendonitis (aka Runner’s or Jumper’s knee), Achilles tendonitis, “shin splints”, shoulder impingement, IT Band syndrome, and bursitis to name a few.

With the exception of bursitis, all of these injuries share one common element.  That element is scar tissue as a result of microtrauma.  Microtrauma can occur from repeated overuse as seen in activities like distance running, swimming, jumping, biking, weight lifting, throwing, or any other activity performed numerous times in succession.  It can also be the result of a single injury such as an acute sprain, strain, or bruise that fails to completely resolve and is exacerbated by continued activity.

Once microtrauma has occurred the body begins the cycle of inflammation and repair.  Inflammation on it’s own is not a bad thing.  It is the body’s way of removing damaged tissues and preparing the site for healing.  Inflammation can cause problems when poorly controlled or when the healing is incomplete.  One of the results of this is the development of excessive or bulky scar tissue.  As the body heals it lays down rudimentary scar tissue without concern for future use.  This scar tissue should eventually be removed and replaced by more refined scar tissue and eventually fully repaired tissue.

It is important that old bulky scar tissue be broken down and removed by the body in order to break the chronic injury cycle.  Anti-inflammatory medications can help break the cycle of bad inflammation and pain, but do not actively address the formation of scar tissue in chronic injuries.  Sports massage, or deep tissue massage, is an intense therapy used to assist the body in breaking down scar tissue so that it can ultimately be removed through the normal cycle of inflammation and repair.

In addition, the use of sports massage can help to re-align collagen fibers as healing occurs.  This re-alignment is important to establish future strength in healthy tissues.  Based on Wolff’s law (and the expanded idea of Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demands), which says that tissues will adapt to the stresses placed upon them, increasing tissue stress during healing (carefully!) will result in a better overall recovery.

The other significant benefit of sports massage is that it decreases the overall muscle hardness.  Muscle hardness might best be described as abnormally high tension within the muscle.  This increased tension predisposes the muscle and tendon to injury.  Post exercise stretching can help reduce this (see the post about cool down and stretching here), but once chronic injuries have begun sports massage may be necessary to decrease muscle hardness to the point where stretching can maintain normal muscle flexibility.

Is sports massage something every athlete needs or should have regularly?   Not necessarily.  Some people never experience these types of chronic injuries and many injuries never become chronic because they resolve on their own.  However, if you are experiencing on-going symptoms that fail to resolve, sports massage (along with rehabilitative exercise) may help speed your recovery and may help prevent a re-injury in the future.

Dr. EagarDr. Eagar is a dual credentialed provider with degrees in sports medicine, chiropractic medicine, and exercise science.  Dr. Eagar owns Active Advantage, a private sports medicine practice with an emphasis on rehabilitation and chronic injury management.  He enjoys answering questions and can be reached at activeadvantagechiro@gmail.com.  For more general information you can visit his website http://www.activeadvantagechiro.com.

Triathlon Training: Cool Down, Recovery, and Flexibility

Cool Down, Recovery, and FlexibilityTriathlon Training: Cool Down, Recovery, and Flexibility

I’m sure that for many people when they cross the finish line all they want to do is collapse.  I can certainly understand that desire.  Sometimes it’s exhausting just watching you race!  Try to resist the temptation to stop immediately.  A good cool down and recovery can make all the difference for how your body avoids injury and continues to improve performance.

When completing an endurance event (or any exercise lasting longer than 15 minutes) it’s important to have a proper cool down routine.  A cool down involves continued activity at an easy pace for about 5-10 minutes.  Some people like a light jog, while others prefer to walk.  Where available a low resistance, slow-paced stationary bike is a great option.  You can also hop in a pool and do some lazy laps.  This allows for proper transition of your heart and muscles from a highly active state to a resting state.  The bottom line is to keep moving until heart rate and breathing have mostly normalized.

The other big aspect of recovery is to get fuel into the body.  This should include fluids (with electrolytes) and calories.  For more about electrolyte replacement see my tip about hydration.  Calories may seem like a no brainer, but there is actually an ideal way to do it.  The first part is timing.  You should eat within a few minutes of completing exercise.  During the first thirty minutes post exercise you have a significantly increased muscle protein synthesis, meaning your muscles are trying to recover and giving them the fuel to recover will improve that recovery.  After thirty minutes you still experience an elevated muscle protein synthesis, but it is not as great and is gone within about sixty minutes of exercise completion.

The second part of calorie replacement is what kind of calories.  Some people think that if you are rebuilding muscle then protein should be important.  Almost the opposite is true.  Excessive protein intake can decrease recovery effectiveness.  What your body has really lost is carbohydrate calories.  It needs to replace glucose and glycogen stores in order to rebuild muscle.  Try to consume about 100g of carbohydrates (roughly equivalent to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich) within those first thirty minutes post exercise.  You don’t want to make yourself sick by eating too much too fast, but those 100g are a good goal.  After that you should eat a good healthy diet the rest of the day and don’t starve your body.

The final step in cool down and recovery is flexibility.  Much of the research relating to flexibility training is about pre-exercise stretching and shows little to no effect, with the exception of dynamic flexibility (a topic for another time).  However, a recent study shows potential for decreased injury with static stretching (see the abstract here).  Flexibility is something I consider to be part of overall health.  Poor flexibility may contribute to back pain, shoulder pain, risk of muscle strains, and generally decreased body function.  Stretching won’t stop delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS), but it may improve your overall well-being and help you avoid chronic injuries.

The best time to stretch is after you have been using your muscles.  Any muscle used should be stretched.  Since completing a triathlon involves heavy use of both upper and lower extremities you should be doing a full body stretch.  Include hamstrings, quadriceps, calves (both gastrocnemius and soleus muscles), iliotibial (IT) band, gluteals, piriformis, psoas, pectorals, and rotator cuff muscles.  Sounds like a lot?  You can do all this in less than ten minutes even if you hold each stretch for 30 seconds.

If you include these aspects into your recovery routine you’ll stay healthier through a long season and hopefully enjoy it even more.

Dr. EagarDr. Eagar is a dual credentialed provider with degrees in sports medicine, chiropractic medicine, and exercise science.  Dr. Eagar owns Active Advantage, a private sports medicine practice with an emphasis on rehabilitation and chronic injury management.  He enjoys answering questions and can be reached at activeadvantagechiro@gmail.com.  For more general information you can visit his website http://www.activeadvantagechiro.com.

Hydration and Electrolyte Replacement: Why and How?

hydration and electrolyte replacement - triathlonsThere is already some great advice about hydration here on the RaceTri site, but I wanted to give a little more information for those who are looking for an advantage as they move forward with their training and competition goals.

 When we talk about hydration we should really divide it into two categories.  First, is simply good old H20.  You need water to function.  Failure to consume enough water can elevate blood pressure, contribute to increased risk of heat illness (including both heat exhaustion and heat stroke), and decrease muscle function.  If you break down the biochemistry you’ll see that water is a key component to basically every process in your body.  So make sure you drink enough water.  A good rule of thumb is one half cup per 20 minutes of exercise.

The second category of hydration is electrolyte replacement.  For this I recommend becoming aware of what I call the Big 3: sodium, potassium, and calcium.  These three are heavily involved in the normal function of muscles and nerves in the body.  This includes skeletal muscle as well as heart muscle.  Unfortunately, normal electrolyte levels can require a delicate balance to function well.  In all three cases the electrolyte in question can have negative effects when the levels are too high or too low.

For sodium, not getting enough is not usually the problem.  Even if you consciously eat a low sodium diet you probably still get plenty of it.  However, there is a condition called hyponatremia that most commonly affects endurance athletes.  Despite having adequate sodium in the diet, consuming large quantities of water without any electrolytes can dilute the concentration of sodium in the blood.  This is a serious medical emergency and the consequences may be severe.  The purpose here is not to scare you, but to make you more aware of the need to replace those electrolytes as you go.  This is why I recommend using a sports drink (or sports gel and water) containing electrolytes while you are doing any vigorous endurance exercise, especially if the conditions are hot and humid.

Potassium is almost an opposite of sodium.  Where most diets have more than adequate sodium, they often lack potassium.  There are two ways to combat this.  You can take a supplement or you can improve your diet.  The concern with taking a supplement is that it may not be absorbed as well and it may be too much.  Unlike sodium where too little is dangerous, having too much potassium can lead to a condition called hyperkalemia, which can also have severe consequences.  So I recommend getting your potassium from food sources.  Many people think of bananas as a great source for potassium, but better still are sweet potatoes and dark, leafy greens.  Here’s a link to other great food sources of potassium http://www.health.gov/dietaryguidelines/dga2005/document/html/appendixb.htm.

Calcium is probably the least severe of the group since the body is very effective at regulating the concentration in the blood.  However, one of the ways this is done is by pulling calcium from bones when it becomes scarce.  This is one of the reasons female endurance athletes are more susceptible to conditions such as osteoporosis.  Dairy remains one the best sources for calcium, but can be accompanied by less healthy nutrients, especially if you think ice cream is the best way to get calcium.  In addition, many people choose to eliminate dairy due to personal choice or food allergies.  You can eat foods fortified with calcium (soy milk, some juices) or spinach and some other leafy greens.  The above link has tables for both typical dairy sources of calcium as well as non-dairy sources.

So what’s the bottom line for all this?  First, when hydrating during long exercise bouts, choose a sport drink (or gel and water) that contains sodium and potassium to reduce the risk of severe side effects.  Second, get enough calcium as part of your daily diet to prevent bone loss.  If you eat right and keep exercising you’ve put yourself in the best possible position to have a long healthy life.

Dr. EagarDr. Eagar is a dual credentialed provider with degrees in sports medicine, chiropractic medicine, and exercise science.  Dr. Eagar owns Active Advantage, a private sports medicine practice with an emphasis on rehabilitation and chronic injury management.  He enjoys answering questions and can be reached at activeadvantagechiro@gmail.com.  For more general information you can visit his website http://www.activeadvantagechiro.com.

 

Shin Splints

Shin Splints TreatmentShin Splints!  This is likely the last thing that a runner wants to think about.  It’s a potentially complex problem with relatively simple treatments that no one wants to do.  With that cheery introduction let’s jump in.  The medical term is Medial Tibial Stress Syndrome and it encompasses everything on the continuum from shin splints, to bone stress reaction (think of it as pre-stress fracture), to stress fracture.  A variety of biomechanical forces can be at work here, but essentially it all comes down to too much, too soon.  You push your lower leg muscles into doing something they are not ready to do.

First you notice a muscle ache along the shin bone (most often on the inside) that lasts longer or is more intense than regular pains after running.  Later, this begins to be something that causes you to shorten or change your route.  It is often associated with increasing mileage or advancing hills (especially downhill) too quickly.

Treatment is relative rest from running, but not necessarily rest from exercise.  Cross-training is great and you really need to strengthen all the leg muscles, but especially those of the lower leg.  These are the muscles that are responsible for ankle motion and some toe movements.  I would like to refer you to a specific website that has a good combination of exercises, but I haven’t found one that I like yet (sounds like another project!).  Don’t forget stretching, a loose muscle functions better.  Ibuprofen in the early stages is helpful.  Ice massage (see Initial Injury Treatment) is a great technique that can help with swelling and prevent scar tissue formation.  When the pain has improved, a gradual increase of mileage and hills is essential to prevent re-injury.  A good rule of thumb is only increasing weekly mileage by 10% each week.Shin Splint Areas

There are a variety of braces and compression sleeves developed to help with shin splints.  Taping has also been used.  The idea is that compression will support the muscles and prevent some of the strain where they attach to the bone.  Individually, some people have improvement with them, but there is no scientific evidence out there that they do anything.  Arch supports may provide more support, especially in heel pronators or people with flat feet.

The MOST IMPORTANT thing with shin splints is DON’T IGNORE THEM!  As I said before, this is an injury that lies somewhere on a continuum.  By pushing through shin splints you can push yourself right into a stress fracture.  Stress fractures can be more difficult to heal than regular, traumatic fractures.  This can translate into months without running.

Matt Evans, MD

Dr. Matt Evans Dr. Matt Evans is a sports medicine doctor practicing with Utah Valley Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. Dr. Evans offers comprehensive Sports Medicine care for athletes and non-athletes alike, and his goal is to treat the whole person without surgery, if possible.

Patellar Tendonitis

Another source of knee pain is Patellar Tendonitis, or ‘jumper’s knee’.  It is more common in jumping sports like basketball and volleyball, but runners can also be affected.  The pain most often starts with no particular injury, but may be sore after a run.  Later, the pain comes on quickly with initial use, but fades to a dull ache with continued activity.  This pain is more pronounced with downhill or going down stairs.

If you roll your finger under the bottom part of your knee cap and it hurts then, this is your problem.  This is most often associated with overuse and tight quadriceps muscles.  Initial treatment, includes relative rest, ice, stretching and anti-inflammatory medications.

If this is not helpful and the condition lasts for several weeks then, eccentric exercises are needed to restore tendon health.  These exercises are not the ‘lifting’ part of the exercise, but the ’lowering’ part of the exercise.  This is similar to walking down a hill of 30-45 degrees in a slow and very controlled manner.  Initially, it is painful, but afterwards the knee will feel better, especially after doing it three times a week for 3-4 weeks.

Matt Evans, MD

Dr. Matt Evans Dr. Matt Evans is a sports medicine doctor practicing with Utah Valley Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. Dr. Evans offers comprehensive Sports Medicine care for athletes and non-athletes alike, and his goal is to treat the whole person without surgery, if possible.

Numb Hands and Cycling

numb hands when cycling - solutionDo you ever get numbness and tingling in your palms and fingers (ring and pinky) with cycling?  If so, you may be suffering from Ulnar Nerve Entrapment.  This is caused by swelling within a small canal through which the ulnar nerve travels.  Non-cyclists also get this from masses in the canal such as benign tumors.  Cyclists get this from pressure at the base of the hand opposite the thumb side.  This is made worse with increased trauma/jarring from worse road conditions.  Pain, numbness, and tingling become noticeable towards the end of a ride and usually subside with time after riding.  Numbness may continue even when not riding as the condition worsens.  Weakness in the hand only comes with severe disease.  This is different from carpal tunnel syndrome where the thumb, index finger and middle finger are involved.

The best way to treat this initially is to reduce the pressure on your hands when cycling.  Changing seat and handlebar heights may be the answer.  Aerobars that place more pressure on your forearms than your hands are also a good option.  If these things are not helpful then anti-inflammatories may be needed and usually in the prescription strength.   Injections may also be considered after an MRI.  Surgery is a later option.

Matt Evans, MD

Dr. Matt Evans Dr. Matt Evans is a sports medicine doctor practicing with Utah Valley Orthopedics & Sports Medicine. Dr. Evans offers comprehensive Sports Medicine care for athletes and non-athletes alike, and his goal is to treat the whole person without surgery, if possible.

Your Thoughts:

  • Have an reoccurring aliment you’d like discussed – Ask Dr. Evans
  • Do your hands go numb?  What have you found to alleviate this?

Making Faster Triathlon Transitions

Transition Set Up Photo Courtesy Rob JohnstonHere are some simple steps to help you make faster transitions during a triathlon.  Wither this is your first triathlon or you’ve reached a point that your life is defined by your training and pursuit of the podium, making a fast transition is important. It is the one area where minutes can be shaved off your time and you can have the satisfaction that you’ve minimized the loafing time.  With any event it is the after event thoughts that plague, “why didn’t I push it harder on the bike or the run? Could I have been faster in my transitions?”

Practice, practice, practice.  A week before the race may not be the time to start practicing your transitions, but I suspect for the majority of folks that’s when it happens.  When your training and doing bricks (run to bike or visa versa) set your self up a mini transition area and see  what works for you.

Set your bike up and remember where you’ve parked it, some folks have used balloons or luggage ties – something colorful to draw attention to your spot. If you are on asphalt colored chalk is a good way to mark where your bike is.  Trim your bib number and then tape your bid number on your bike on the seat post to keep things aerodynamic and make sure you can ride without it flapping, rubbing, or annoying you.

Layout your towel – this really isn’t for drying off after the swim its for marking your territory and keeping your feet clean and comfy while you get your shoes on and off. Layout your helmet and glasses. Put your running shoes on top of your bib and racebelt so it doesn’t blow away. Have your socks, hat, and what ever race food you plan on taking with you in a neat and sequential order.
If you are running without socks, put body glide on the heals of both shoes to prevent any hotspots.

T1 – getting out of the swim a lot people are dizzy and wobbly so be cautious.
Getting out the wetsuit: before getting out of the water – pull the neck of your wetsuit and get a good gulp of water down the front, this will eliminate some of the vacuum and stickiness.  Pull your zip, remove the arms in quick fashion and kick out your legs while keeping one leg on the wetsuit.

Always put your helmet on first, then glasses, bib number (turned around to the back) and shoes. For the serious folks have your shoes clipped in and ready to go and use a rubber band to keep them parallel for easy mounting and slide the shoes on while on the move – this takes some practice. Here’s a good video on making a fast T1 transition

T2 – on entry remove your feet from the shoes and leave them on the bike, run along, park the bike, remove helmet and put on your running shoes, adding a little talc powder will help in getting sweaty feet into the socks and shoes, tighten laces, turn your bib number around and off you go.  Watch the video on making a fast T2 transition.

Your Thoughts:

  • What has helped you in transitions?
  • What advise would you give first time triathletes on making efficient transitions?
  • Socks/ no socks?
  • Do you worry about fast transitions in Half or Full Ironman triathlons?

Open Water Swimming Tips

open-water-swimming-tipsAs the lakes warm up and you are feeling the mental pressures of your next triathlon, the open water swim can be one of the biggest mental challenges that you have to face.  The best thing to do is be prepared.  Very few people consider swimming to be their strongest event in a triathlon, I’ve heard it said many times that “the best part about the swim is getting out of the water.” If swimming is not your strong point the thing to do is swim more, watch videos on technique, and swim more.

Most triathletes find running to be their strong suit, so focus less on your running and put more hours in at the pool.  The more comfortable you are in the water the better you’ll be prepared for open water.  Open water swimming takes a good deal of mental preparation.  The difference between the pool and open water are obvious –  you can’t stand up and take a rest in most cases and unless your living in the tropics, the water temperature is going to be cooler – or just plain cold. These things bring up two important ingredients to open water swimming.  Wear a wetsuit and never swim alone.

Helpful Tips For Open Water Swimming

Warm up. Get in the water and spend some time warming up, it takes your body about 15 minutes of good aerobic activity before your heart and muscles are ready to go.  The loss of breath when getting in cold water happens every time for every athlete, but it doesn’t last and mentally you need to be prepared for it.  Focus on relaxing and getting lots of air – float on your back and watch the clouds.  Some lakes are easier to practice open water swimming than others.  If you can practice in water that has a sandy bottom and the water isn’t above your head – it really helps, especially if you have a freak out moment.

Swimming straight. To swim in a straight line you’ll need to practice keeping your arms straight ahead/above your shoulders – not allowing one arm to get lazy (wide) or cutting over.   Sighting is the other technique you’ll need to practice. To sight as you swim lift your head so that your goggles are just out of the water and spot a group of trees and keep that picture in your mind, after 3 strokes lift your head and find your point again.  You may need to spot every stroke at first with practice this will become a little more comfortable.  Incorporate your sighting with your breath, sight first, then breath as your head comes down.  Here’s a great video on open water swimming and sighting.

Overcoming freak-out moments. Everyone has them, for many it’s the day of the race.  There you are swimming along feeling good when suddenly you get a mouthful of water instead of air and your brain yells “its dark underneath you, you can’t see in front of you, you can’t touch the bottom, this waters cold, your shoulder hurts, this wetsuit is to tight, you can’t breath, you going to drown!”   It happens.  What do you do? I suggest two things:

1) flip over and float on your back and kick with your legs.  If you can float you are not going to drown. Take a moment, relax, tell yourself you’re OK.  Most likely you’re body isn’t warmed up enough and the muscles are calling for air. Once you’ve calmed down, roll over and get back into the grove.

Or

2) Don’t flip over, but focus on what you are doing, reach and push the water past your body, breath, shake your hand as it comes up out of the water. Think positive, smile, and tell yourself you can do it, and keep swimming.  Besides isn’t that the point of doing a triathlon? Learning endurance and overcoming your weaker self.

Take an open water swim clinic, and watch technique videos, and swim more in open water.

Your thoughts:

  • What tip would you give a first time open water swimmer?
  • Have you ever had a “freak out” moment and how did you overcome it?
  • Where do you practice open water swimming?
  • Is there any special equipment open water swimmers should not leave without?