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Open Water

Open Water Age and Event Distance Limit Interpretation

2017 Swim Ontario Open Water Championships

In open water swimming -- along with demand for great technique -- there are at least four essential requirements to review.

  • Ability to swim the required distance.
    Swimmers in pools have guide lines on the bottom, or lane ropes on the top, to keep them on straight courses, they also tumble or push off every 25 or 50 metres. Because these aids are naturally non-existent in sea, lake and river swims, some extra distance is inevitable. In addition, almost any wind from any direction produces waves, escalating from ripple and chop to very rough. This all decreases swimming speed and because of the increasing difficulty in steering a straight course even more distance and duration is added to the event. In addition to all these influential factors few people swim as fast in the cold outdoor water as they do in the warm waters of the indoor pool as a result of energy expenditure being inversely proportional to the temperature of the water to cover a given distance in a given time. Because of these factors, the duration of any outdoor swim will be greater than one might expect from one's indoor times. As a result of these slowing down factors, it is essential to train for a distance greater than that which you are going to attempt to swim. In river and lake swims, currents can affect these timings in a much greater way, both for the good and the bad. In such swims it is important to seek the advice of a local boater.
  • Ability to withstand the cold for the requisite time.
    The normal Ontario season starts in mid May and continues until late September. During this time water temperatures can range from 10°C (50°F) to 24°C (75°F). Great lake temperatures tend to be somewhat lower. For newcomers a reasonable target to aim for is to be comfortable at a water temperature of 15°C (60°F). This may mean starting training over short periods at colder temperatures than this outdoors, then you will become more acclimatized to the cold water. A word of advice - when training outdoors always have a safety boat.
  • Appreciation of general conditions.
    This is the one item for which there is no training and without which only the smallest lakes could be completed. One needs luck that one does not fall ill either on the day of the swim or just before. Added to that, the weather, in particular the wind, plays an increasing role in one's ability to complete an open water swim. The temperature of the water can also be influenced by local conditions, cold upswellings or a local stream entering the lake.
  • Ability to maintain a good pace throughout the swim.
    Many swimmers are happy just to complete a distance open water swim without challenging for places. But, for aspiring champions and record holders stamina building must be fitted in with the other preliminary work. Water Polo and Squash are very good stamina building sports. Circuit and/or weight training will improve both strength and stamina, however, caution must be taken not to over do the weights and restrict your flexibility! Completing large sets of short duration speed work with short rest intervals in the swimming pool can help you build up stamina and keep you alert to your present fitness level. Sets such as 20 x 100m on 1:50 (or on 1:40, 1:30, 1:20 etc. depending on your speed, aim to have 10-15 seconds rest and hold pace) - this time should be gradually reduced as you get fitter. Swimming against the clock is preferable for swimmers to develop speed and pace.