By Dick Sidner
#1: Avoid panic by warming up. Panic, a frequent complaint in open water swims, happens to some of the strongest and ablest of swimmers. And it may have happened to you. The best way to prevent panic is to get an adequate warm-up. The swim warm-up is the most disregarded of the essential pre-race activities. If at all possible, get in, get moving and get acclimated to the cold. Not only will you get your cardiovascular system ready for the impending start, but you can test your goggles and wetsuit for mechanical problems.
Why is panic so common? There is a well-studied physiological response called the “diving reflex.” Simply stated, when a human or other mammal submerges their face in cold water, there is an immediate reflex which slows the heart rate and narrows the blood vessels in the extremities. This reflex conserves oxygen for the brain and enables diving mammals such as whales and dolphins to stay submerged for prolonged periods. Unfortunately the reflex does not afford us the same advantage. When starting a triathlon, the last thing you want to do is to lower your heart rate and constrict the flow of blood to your arms and legs. Without an adequate warm-up, the diving reflex will win out over your adrenaline and it will deprive you of the oxygen you need. You will become anaerobic. Fear of drowning will overcome you and you will be in full panic mode. It’s physiology. The diving reflex exists in our brain stem (or some dark recess)… a remnant from our primordial ‘aquatic’ past. Warm up and have a great swim! For more information go to swim open water.net (Top Ten Ways…)
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