Say YES! to Life Swims Say Yes! to Life Swims: Discover the Joy of Swimming

Discover the joy of swimming

Archive for ‘Open Water Swimming’ Posts

March 26th, 2018 Open Water Swim Preparation for Triathletes

Triathlete swimmers

Do you dread the swim portion of your upcoming triathlon? Are you training in a pool, even though you know (intellectually!) that triathlon swimming is totally different?

The only effective way to train for an open water swim is to train in the open water. A pool cannot simulate open water conditions, such as chop, waves, wind, and current. When you wear a wetsuit, your body position and stroke change. Your swim times outside may be much slower than those in a pool.

Three Tips for Success

 1. Get outside early. To beat your competitors, start swimming outdoors early in the season. You should be able to complete 80% of your race distance in the open water two to three weeks preceding your event.

Because you are immersing early in the year, you absolutely must acclimate. Cold water robs the body of heat 32 times faster than cold air. Enter the water slowly and stay in a maximum of ten minutes at first. Run in and out of the water several times before starting to swim. Extend your distance and duration each time.

Expect to feel an “ice-cream” sinus headache during your first few minutes in the water. Your face may hurt. Relax and be patient…like many things in triathlon, pain is part of the process!

Remove your swimsuit and wetsuit quickly once you exit the water. Always change into closed shoes and warm clothes, and bring a thermos of warm liquid (NOT brandy). Because of vasoconstriction, you will probably feel colder 15-30 minutes after your swim than you did while swimming.

If you are combining your swim with a run, always swim first. Triathletes who run first risk feeling uncomfortably cold in the water.

2. Use appropriate gear. The following gear will help you get a leg up on your competitors.

  • Professionally fitted wetsuit. Eschew on-line purchasing; a careful fitting is important. Warning: Although your wetsuit provides buoyancy, it is not a Personal Flotation Device (PFD). Wearing one will not save your life.
  • Neoprene cap. This protects you in the early season. Pull a bright latex or silicone cap over it to increase your visibility.
  • Silicon earplugs. Although earplugs can mute important sounds (like boat motors), they help to protect your main “computer”—your brain.
  • Swimmer Safety Device. Swimmers can usually see boaters, but boaters often cannot see swimmers. Buckling around your waist and trailing behind you, Swimmer Safety Devices make you more visible in the water. Like wetsuits, they are not meant to be used as PFDs. (

3. Swim with experienced paddlers. It’s best to train with a group, but even better to swim with an experienced kayaker. Your kayaker must carry an extra PFD for you. They should know CPR and carry a phone in case of emergency.

Be an Animal. Challenge yourself! Keep track of your times, and try to beat them. Also consider joining the growing ranks of open water swimmers who swim year-round. These swimmers will welcome you with open arms. You may start to enjoy open water swimming instead of dreading it.

Happy training!

Guila Muir is the founder of  Say Yes! to Life Swims LLC, the Northwest’s premiere source of escorted open water swims. Join us to practice sighting and swimming in a pack while you test your endurance and open water skills!

January 19th, 2017 Women in the Open Water (Panel Discussion)


In 2016, several amazing Northwest women swimmers made news doing the nearly impossible. This forum will highlight their triumphant stories. Whether you dream of swimming in the open water yourself or simply want to learn more about this challenging sport, you are invited for a memorable evening.

FREE, and open to all, this event is the first in a series of Springtime educational offerings.

When: Friday, March 24th, 2017

Where: C&P Coffee, Seattle

Our generous panelists are:

  • Wendy Van De Sompele (circumnavigated Maury Island, WA)
  • Erika Norris (swam from Bremerton to Seattle)
  • Jessi Harewicz (swam the Georgia Strait, Canada)
  • Melissa Kegler (swam the Catalina Channel and is preparing to conquer the English Channel in 2017)

Say Yes to Life Swims is the Northwest’s only business providing Escorted Open Water Swim Adventures.

Sign up for the Say Yes to Life Swims Newsletter for tips and techniques to improve your open water swimming. See you in March!

April 11th, 2016 Outdoors NW Magazine Features Say Yes to Life! Swims

ONW_Cal_2016_DEonlineCheck it out!

Braving the Open Water article is on pages 34-35. Learn more about how to prepare for the open water this season!


March 15th, 2016 Getting Into Deep Water

imagesDoes the thought of swimming outdoors make you start hearing the soundtrack from the movie “Jaws”? If so, you are not alone. The good news is that countless swimmers have conquered their fears. They have discovered the uniquely rewarding activity of swimming in the natural world.

You Can Do It!

First things first: You will never see a pointy fin swimming toward you in Northwest lakes and coastal waters. We are blessed with some of the finest, clearest, most swimmable bodies of water in the world. Follow the tips below to increase your confidence and competence in the open water.

Three Tips to Enhance Your Enjoyment

1. Take It Slowly

Even if you can swim long distances in the pool, swimming outdoors is entirely different. There is no line on the bottom to guide you and no walls to hem you in. Experienced open water swimmers love this freedom, and you will learn to cherish it, too.

However, do take things slowly. The key to comfort in the open water is smart acclimatization. Water temperature above 67 degrees Fahrenheit will feel most comfortable, so don’t be shy about taking a thermometer (one from a hot tub works well) down to water’s edge.

To acclimate properly, make your first swims very short—maybe only three to five minutes. Most people acclimate fairly rapidly, and can soon extend their time in the water. Bring plenty of warm clothes to change into, even if the sun is high.

By taking steps to keep comfortable, you will relish returning to the open water—filled with confidence instead of trepidation.

2. Be Seen

New open water swimmers can be narcissistic. That is, they think the whole world is looking at them! Take it from the most experienced swimmers in the world: Jet skis, power boats, and most anything else in the water (including other swimmers) cannot see you at all, no matter how bright your swim cap.

The importance of being seen in the water cannot be overstressed. Always swim close to shore, and wear a Swim Safety Device (often called The ISHOF SaferSwimmer Float) to increase your visibility. Swimming with friends helps make you more visible, and increases the fun you have as well.

3. Stay Calm

Stay calm and swim on! Even experienced open water swimmers may hyperventilate a little upon entering the water. This phenomenon (called the Mammalian Dive Reflex) is totally normal. Be patient, remain calm, and your breathing will return to normal within minutes.

The trick to overriding anxiety is to enter the water slowly. Don’t start swimming until you have fully immersed your face and head several times. You’ll be surprised how quickly you begin to start to feel like a sea mammal, totally comfortable in your environment.


Have Fun!

These tips will help you become an accomplished and confident open water swimmer. All you need to do is follow the tips above and take the plunge. Like many other happy summer swimmers in the Northwest, you may well discover a new life passion.

Guila Muir is the founder of Say Yes to Life! Swims, a Northwest company providing escorted open water swim adventures and outdoor swim lessons. Contact her at


April 30th, 2015 Seattle Magazine Features Say Yes! to Life Swims

Seattle Magazine May 2015The May 2015 issue of Seattle Magazine includes an article featuring Say Yes! to Life Swims.

The four-page article in the magazine’s Health section focuses on a recent trend among Seattle women of making exercise a social activity. Author Sheila Cain discusses the benefits of socially-focused physical activities, which include motivation, camaraderie, community-building, and of course, fun.

As the article points out, exercise is just one benefit of group physical activity. “(T)he most common outcome is the sense of community that comes from the … gatherings.” Friendships, community, and fun don’t just help us start exercising and keep exercising: the social aspects of Say Yes to Life Swim Excursions are a health benefit in and of themselves.

Cain cites a 2012 study by the Society of Behavioral Medicine that found “people participating in aerobic activity worked out twice as long when they were with a partner than if they were exercising on their own”. She also points out that those who exercise as part of a group are more likely to show up in the first place. Stands to reason: it’s a lot harder to opt to stay home when you know your friends are expecting you.

If you’ve been wondering whether open water swimming might be for you, now is a great time to come give it a try. We’ve got an exciting lineup of Excursions scheduled for the 2015 season … and a great community of swimmers ready to welcome you.

March 21st, 2014 Say Yes! Featured in the Daily News of Open Water Swimming

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Here’s a highlight:

“Say Yes! To Life is an American excursion swimming event management company founded by Guila Muir in the state of Washington. It is the Northwest’s premiere source of open water swimming adventures and was named as one of America’s Top 100 Open Water Swims for 2013 – 2014.”

January 26th, 2013 Winter Open Water Swimming

Greetings! I’m writing this first Say YES to Life! blog post of 2013 to ramble a bit about my experiences with winter open water swimming. I’ll also talk a little about the “Conquistador de los Penguinos” (my friend Randy Perkins), and provide several resources for winter open water swimming.

How I Started Winter Open Water Swimming

Although I’d always felt comfortable in the water,  at 46 years of age I had never learned any strokes, never having had a swim lesson in my life. So I took my first lesson, bought my books, and became obsessed with learning as much as I could about swimming to make up for lost time. From my first tiny little swim in Lake Washington, I was absolutely hooked on the open water. I’ve now swum Alcatraz nine times and am preparing for a 10K swim in San Fransisco Bay in May.

Almost from the start, I swam year round. In recent years, I donned my wetsuit on December first, and thought I was brave when I took it off on my birthday in March. This is in Seattle, WA, where ocean temperatures can dip below 45F. Air temperatures hover in the 30’s and 40’s for weeks in the winter.

In 2012, a small group of us committed to support our friend Randy as he practiced for his swim across the Strait of Magellan. The swim was scheduled for January, 2013. Every Saturday, from the summer through the present, we meet at some frigid beach, strip down, and swim for up to 60 minutes in Puget Sound. Some of us wear wetsuits. Randy and I don’t.

Randy’s Victory

Randy made it across the Strait just last week, swimming in water as cold as 37-41 degrees Fahrenheit. The swim was brutal, but at least the weather was great–he swam on the hottest day in the last 131 years. He battled eddies, currents and wind, and swam for one hour, 43 minutes. Randy is one of only a handful of people who have ever completed this swim. You can read about his adventure here. Randy’s success adds to my interest and commitment to swimming in icy conditions. As he says, “if you can swim in the Northwest, you can swim anywhere.”

Cold Open Water Swimming

I see a growing interest in cold open water swimming internationally.  There is an International Ice Swimming Association, and the annual Winter Swimming Championships have taken place for decades. More and more “regular” people are getting interested in the sport.

While I haven’t yet gained credentials as an actual ice swimmer, my winter open water swimming adventures add a whole new dimension to my life.

You can try it, too. Say YES to Life! Swims will add a few early Swim Excursions this year for the brave and curious. Just start making your showers colder NOW in preparation!

Winter Swimming Resources

Advice for New Cold Water Swimmers

DVD Trailer for Winter Swimming film

London Christmas Swim (41F) video

New York Times article on cold water swimming

Ice Swimming Beginner’s Guide

That’s it for now. Say YES to life, and happy swimming to you.

March 13th, 2012 Welcome!

Welcome to Say YES! to Life Swim’s first blog post. Our motto is “discover the joy of swimming.” Our blog is for those who already love open-water swimming, as well as those who want to experience it for the first time. Our readership includes both open-water novices and experienced triathletes.

Our blog will:

  • Supply hints and tips to improve your open-water swimming.
  • Update you about Say Yes! to Life’s scheduled swims.
  • Provide  information about open-water swimming around the world.


Here is some provocative information from Paul Newsome, head coach at Swim Smooth in Australia:

As an open water swimmer or a triathlete you should be training as a distance swimmer, looking to develop your fitness for best performance over distances of 800m and longer.

There are two classic mistakes swimmers make:

  1. In their training sets they perform short very fast swims with lots of recovery. (Masters teams commonly use this sort of set.) A set might be 15x 100m with 45 seconds recovery.
  2. They do not train for fitness at all, believing that stroke technique is all important. While stroke technique is very important in swimming, you need to be able to sustain your technique over longer distances.

Here is a relevant workout for open-water swimmers:

8x 200 yds with 20 seconds recovery between each

16x 100 yds  with 10 seconds recovery between each

(Notice the short recoveries between repetitions, meaning such a set might be best described as ‘relentless’!)

Thank you, Paul—you’ll get us all swimming longer sets in the pool in preparation for our open-water swims.

Happy swimming from us all at Say Yes! to Life Swims.