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Monday, March 11, 2013

What’s A Woman To Do In The Open Water?

Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

Female open water swimmers may have to make some changes to their typical beauty regimen prior to a competition. These are adjustments that would likely never cross a women’s mind during the course of her average day.

Starting from the head, you have to worry about your hair, especially if it is long. In ocean swims and races that can range from 30 minutes to 10 hours, there is a great possibility for your swim cap to slide or fall off. Even if the cap does not fall off completely, when it starts to slip off your head, it can be frustrating and worrisome. This probability is also increased due to the amount of physical contact that occurs in open water races. In addition, the oncoming surface chop as your head repeatedly hits the waves can cause the cap to start to slip off ever so much every minute.

What are some countermeasures?

Refraining from washing your hair the night before – or even two or three days before depending on your hair - is the best option. If your hair is freshly washed, it is likely to be smooth and “silky”, which increases the chances of your cap sliding off. So, although it may not look pretty as it normally does, it is a good idea for you to go a couple of days without washing your hair leading up to a competition.

While athletes may choose to forgo having dirty hair, the next adjustment is a major sacrifice for women who like to keep their nails long or wear fake nails. At international competitions and domestic championship events, your fingernails and toenails are checked by officials before the race to make sure they are not too long and will not scratch another competitor. This is done for safety purposes, so no one will suffer scratches or cuts from long nails.

Legs are the next commitment made, especially by elite swimmers. It is common for competitive swimmers (both pool and open water) to go extended periods of time without shaving their legs. Then, right before a major competition, they completely shave down their bodies; this includes legs, arms, back, etc. This allows for the athletes to not only reduce drag resistance in the water, but it also gets rid of all dead skin, allowing for a better feel for the water. While most female athletes are used to this ritual throughout the year, it is still not always ideal. Non-swimmers definitely do not understand this concept. In school or in the office, some women are made fun of or chided for having hairy legs.

Make-up is another hassle, especially for women who are training twice a day. Women either forgo entirely the daily make-up ritual of other females, or they put on the make-up and then face runny mascara during their following workout.

But the sacrifices made with hair on the head, hair on the body, arms and legs, nails and make-up are more than worth it once you get out and enjoy the open water on a regular basis.

An additional perspective is here on Wearing Make-up In the Open Water.

Photos from top to bottom show Christine Cossette (Canada), Yurema Requena (Spain), Britta Kamrau (Germany), and Yvetta Hlaváčová (Czech Republic).

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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