Hold the Salt!

One of the most noticeable differences between pool and ocean swimming is the presence of salt water. For some, high salt concentrations can even be a deterrent to open water swimming. Fear not, here are some tips on what to expect when swimming in water with a high concentration in salt and some tools to mediating salt’s effects.

  1. The warmer the climate, the saltier the water. Warmer, dryer air temperatures cause seawater to evaporate at a higher rate, leaving salt behind and increasing ocean salinity. Areas that receive more freshwater rainfall will have a lower level of salinity. So if you live in an area that is warm, dry, and receives little rainfall, expect a much saltier ocean than cooler, damper climates. Saltiness can change as the seasons change within the same region as well.
  2. Bring water to rinse. Fill an empty milk gallon with warm water to rinse off with after your swim. You’ll feel refreshed, free of salt and sand, and not to mention, a bit warmer!
  3. Chaffing woes. Generally, the higher the salt content of the water, the more chaffing becomes an issue. Bring Vaseline, Body Glide, or any other anti-chaffing product and apply liberally at hot spots: typically under the arms, around the neck, and anywhere the edges of your suit move on your skin.
  4. Mouthwash please! If you’re planning a much longer swim (2 hours or more) you may wish to bring mouthwash to avoid what marathon swimmers often refer to as “salt mouth.” After a prolonged period of time in salt water, the tongue and mouth become wrinkled and can be painful. Swishing around a bit of mouthwash can provide temporary relief from salt mouth.
  5. Hold the salt! If you are taking a sport drink with you, choose one that does not contain much sodium. Depending on the length and intensity of your workout, you still may need potassium and calories, but you’ll consume plenty of sodium while you swim, whether you intend to or not!
  6. Enjoy the buoyancy. Although swimming in salt water can present a few discomforts, the buoyancy the salt water offers relative to fresh water can outweigh these negatives. Similar to wearing a pull buoy, swimming in the ocean can feel like you’re flying across the surface of the water.


Jen Schumacher

Marathon Swimmer, www.jenschumacher.org

Sport Psychology Consultant, www.jenschumacher.com