Category Archives: Swimming

Open vs closed hand in swimming strokes

A common thing some people do in their swimming stroke is a closed hand, I started an open hand technique following what was taught by total immersion, the purpose was so that the hand and arms be as relaxed as possible to conserve energy. As it turns out, the open hand is actually more effective in pulling the water, and therefore better for a swim stroke. Some studies have shown thar certain swimmers like Michael Phelps uses an open hand, and reseaarch has shown that an open hand is more effective. To be more prexise is a 10 degree separation.


Safety during an open water swim

Doing a solo openwater swim is risky, doing it in a group is safer, but even then the risks are still there.

If you are planning to do an open water swim, make sure you inform someone where you are going to do your swim, if possible have someone look over you during your swim, either from the shore, or from a water craft like a boat or kayak or a standup paddleboard. But for most of us that would be a luxury. In any case, this post will cover some of the aspects of safety based on my experience.


If you are to swim in area where motorboats past by, I highly recommend with a swimming buoy, this is so that they can easily spot you from afar and then avoid you.


SHARKS (or lack there of)

Most people have a fear of openwater swimming because of jaws or sharks, just keep in mind that sharks attacks are actually quite rare. A friend who SCUBA dives shares that she has done more than 80 dives in Brunei and has never seen a shark.


I have snorkeled in sabah once and there was a certain small fish that kept on pecking on me, but i guess I was invading its territory and it was being protective. Otherwise most fishes just pass by or swim away. One occassion I puked in the water, there were small fishes swimming along side me for a while.


The hazard that I keep on facing during an openwater swimming is jellyfish, and not just the big ones (like the one that stung my wife), the small ones can pack quite a sting. The pain is not much different to an ant bite or a bee sting (which i have also experienced). During a swim we may swim through them, and they are just reacting to us bumping into them, in my case its usually around the neck and chest area, a few times the armpit (so it was painful when I pulled and recover during a swim stroke).


Jelly fish protection is either wear a rash guard, or I have seen people use an anti jellyfish gel in Labuan, I haven’t seen it sold in Brunei though. Now treatment for stings is quite confusing if you google around.

Generally do not touch the tentacles if they are still attached, use an object to help pull it off. I have seen people use a credit card to scrap of any stingers that might be still attached, but others share that the pressure from the cards might inject more venom from the stingers.

A common suggestion is to urinate or pee on the affected area. I haven’t personally try this, but what I have tried is vinegar spray and warm water. The idea is the acid may deactivate the stingers or neutralize the venom, others suggest that the warm water may do the same thing. The general idea is if the temperature or pH of the solution matches the venom it will be neutralized, but if it doesn’t it will be activated, on that note there are those that suggest rinsing in the salty ocean water would suffice. I admit a warm shower does sting a bit initially, but it does feel soothed afterwards.


Group swimming is not much different from a group hike. It is best to swim in a group. After all in the case of a predator, what matters is not that you can swim faster than the predator, but that you can swim faster than the other swimmers. 😜

Jokes aside, group swimming is the best way for a beginner to try an open water swim. The number of people may give comfort, confidence and moral support to the person, especially in knowing that someone may accompany them or may even help them during times of need. So the first important part if a group swim is…


Ideally partner up with someone your speed, or at least doesn’t mind slowing down to keep you company. If there is an odd one out, then there can be a swim buddy of threes. But keep in mind despite being with company, even those who can swim, there are no guarantees that they can help you in an emergency situation. Which is why I recommend the swimmer to have at least a few basics before they begin to swim open water.


If you are a beginner, it is recommended that you have a swimming buoy, Note that even though it is not meant to be a flotation device or a lifesaving device (it says so on the package or the buoy) it can give the beginner a bit of confidence boost knowing that they might be assisted by a floating device if they get tired. Note that most people won’t need a floating device if they know how to relax in the water, especially since most people will float easily in sea water.

Another important use of a swimming buoy is as a dry bag. To place your belongings like your key or your wallet in it while you swim. You may be able to safely keep your mobile phone dry in it, but there is no guarantee. I would suggest an extra protection by putting it in its own protection bag.

An important note if swimmimg against the waves, if the waves are crushing, it is recommended that you hold the buoy in your arms instead of leaving it dragging behind. As the forces in a wave may break the tether to the buoy. (Which has happened before)


This is the part that is often difficult to maintain, especially if there are people different swimming abilities. Keep swimming in a pack, you don’t want to leave anyone behind. A slow beginner swimmer in the back may feel pressured to keep up and they may tire and quit sooner. In a bigger group, people with different abilities might split into 2 or 3 groups. But as long as you stay with your swimming buddy you shud be fine, and the groups should stay together. In the case of splits the choices are to maintain the group by stopping frequently at 50 or a 100 metres and wait for the rest, or to split the group between fast and slow, so the fast groups don’t need to stop so frequently and maintain their pace.


Before we begin it is best to identify the prequisites for you to be able to swim openwater.

  1. You know how to swim, at least 50 metres
  2. You know how to swim relaxed. You can swim 500 metres without feeling tired. This usually requires to be comfortable with your breathing rythm. Being able to breathe every 3 or 4 strokes would be an advantage. The longer you can hold your breath the more comfortable you can become, especially in hard waves.
  3. You can float, tread easily and comfortably. The sea water does make this a lot more easier than in the swimming pool.
  4. Sighting. In the swimming pool you have the lines and tiles to guide you, in the open water there is no such thing. Swimming breast stroke is easy to sight. Freestyle or front crawl is more tricky. What I would recommend is to lift head up to sight, right before turning the head to the side to breathe in.
  5. Swimming straight. A tricky thing to do. One way of checking in the pool is to close your eyes in the water
  6. Swim the distance, it is recommended to do what’s called over distance training where you swim 130% of the distance. This is to compensate for tge currents doing an openwater swim.


Before the swim, communicate to the group of the route.

  • The simplest route is straight out and back, its easier if there is a target to aim for. Most people wont be able to swim straight even with a swim marker.
  • Another route is one that triathlons usually do, which is a triangle loop, a few hundred metres outwards to the left, swim to the right parallel to the shore, and then back to starting point. its easier if you have a swim marker buoy. But its doable even if without.
  • Probably the safest and easiest route to swim far is to swim outwards for a few hundred metres, at least past the wave breakers, and then swim parallel to the shore, and then back. At least if anything happens or you get tired, you can always swim back to shore and walk back.
  • GPS. It is helpful if you have a GPS swim watch to keep track of the distance during a swim, it may also be use as a guide during the swim. At the least the distance and time you have covered. If you dont have a GPS watch, a simple trick is to count your strokes in the pool, e.g. If I swim with 50 strokes per 50 metres, then I have a rough idea on how long I have swam.

Weather, tides and currents

Be aware of the weather, currents and tides. Obviously do not swim in harsh weather where the winds are strongly blowing and causing huge waves.

The tides and currents are a bit challenging in the sense you might not notice it until you are in the water. This can cause you to swim further and faster than you expected.

If the tides are coming in i.e. getting high tide, the water will push you to the shore, if it is coming out i.e. getting low tide, then the water is pushing you out to see.

I haven’t notice the currents being that bad. If you are a strong swimmer, you should be fine. A weak swimmer should learn to relax if they are caught in a rip current, and swim to the side until they find the current pushing o shore.


Summarizing this post:


  • Be able to swim long distance. 50m-500m
  • Swim in a group
  • Use a swim buoy
  • Wear a rash guard or a long sleeve swim suit
  • Relax


  • Don’t Split up. Stay in packs.
  • Don’t Panic.
  • Don’t swim the distance in open water if you haven’t done so in a pool. At least do 130% in the pool.
  • Don’t swim in bad weather.

There is probably a few more things that I could cover, but these are the important things I can remember right now. Please feel free to comment or ask any questions to ask any other issues or to clarify certain aspects.

Day 28 – small workshop, afternoon cycling, and an amazing swim class

In the morning had a business plan workshop, it was disappointing to have a significantly smaller number on the last day of the workshop, but not unexpected. Kinda felt tired, but that might be from the disappointment, at the end of the class, a few people left early. I dont blame people for being unable to come or that they have to leave early, as I understand people have priorities.  The last friday of ramadhan is often a day where families visit graves, also considering pay day a few days ago and raya is upcoming, some people might need to go to the bank today in the morning.

The friday sermon or khutbah today was started with something about how complicated and fragile the human body is, and ended with the importance of masjid, or the place of worship. Mentioning on the newly (and amazingly quickly) built masjid in mentiri. It burnt down in early April 2017, but it was finished this late june 2017.  That’s like 3 months to build a structure that can house hundreds or maybe a thousand people. Which just shows with power, money a stong desire, a lot can be built in a relatively short amount of time. Inspires me to be rich and powerful to do something as great. 🤔

In the late afternoon after a power nap, my wife and I went out on a bike ride, me with my new bike. Originally she felt lazy, but she incentivize herself to bike by requesting to eat out afterwards. So I agreed. I was setting up, I realize how many important accessories I need to buy for my new bike. A new saddle bag for emergency repair kit, maybe a bag to put extra items, and some lights. Temporarily I transferred from my old bike to my new bike and we went out. And then due to larger frame and taller saddle, I had to remove both wheels instead of the usual front wheel only, in order to fit 2 bikes in one car. Also testing out my new bib shorts and cycling jersey that arrived yesterday. Which coincidentally matched the colour of my bike. I think green might be my new colour.

When I tested the bike previously, it was around the stadium, so I couldn’t go full speed at extended periods. This time around I wanted to see how well I would do on the highway. We started off easy, as a warmup. I cant fully experience going fast on a steep climb yet on the highway, as we went sliw and relaxed. My wife didn’t want to go too far so we settled for the 8km mark and made a u-turn. It was only then on the way back with a lot of descents that we went fast, I thought I might have gone too fast and left my wife far behind, but she was doing well keeping up just behind me, so I was able to go faster with her keeping up. I was surprised how I could maintain my speed, and even more surprised that my wife could keep up. Well for a while anyway, but it was still impressive. We went fast downhill and maintained a bit of speed uphill as well. Going downhill with my urata, I would have to pedal faster to avoid the dead zone to convert the pedaling to get speed, but with the smaller teeth of 11t vs a 13t, I was able convert more of that pedalling to speed without any dead zones. That means I could potentially go faster. Our last ride was 44 mins, this time around with the longer wait at the u turn we did 42 mins.

Looking at the speed graph below, potentially without the warm up, we could have averaged 30kmph. Previously with my urata, and withput drafting. I struggled to get to and maintain 30kmph. 27kmph would have been the average. What a difference a higher end bike makes. Of course I think the power I have built up with the urata over the years helped. The bike’s function is to convert that power into speed. And oh boy, did that new bike transferred that into speed. I feel more confident that I can keep up with the big boys. I look forward to riding with a group, or joining a cycling event. Just to see how much my speed is improved with a better bike. 

As we finished, I shared with my wife how impressed I was with her ability to keep up. Her faced was flush red from her attempt. I remembered this time around to do some stretches for myself an my wife, before we headed home.

We got home and prepared to go out. It was only then I realized I had a few invites that day, one was a function nearby. I decided to forego the functions and just treat my wife for her achievements today. Unfortunately a lot of restaurants were full for the iftar. So we decided to delay my break (and her treat) and went off to buy some bike accessories instead at the bike shop. Bought some lights and a bottle cage, will have to look for the saddle bag elsewhere. 

When we went to the restaurant,  they were a few available tables. We noticed that there were others that were waiting to be served as well. We were prepared for some slow and possibly bad customer service. My wife really wanted her treat, her reward, so she was willing to wait. For starters the table we got want wiped clean yet. Then it was a few minutes before we got the menu, thankfully we knew what we wanted and ordered on the spot. There a few food items that were out of stock, but there were acceptable alternatives. We noticed while waiting, a few other people left as they weren’t serviced fast enough. I acknowledged my wife for being patient as she used to be one of toys impatient people, but she shared she knows what she wanted, and wouldn’t go any where else, as if she did age any where else or anything else, from past experience, she knows she wouldn’t feel satisfied.  So the food was worth the wait. 

The cucumber and carrot slices with the sambal paste and ambuyat sauce came first. A few more minutes passed by before the ambuyat came along with leafy vegetable, we waited a bit longer before the plates and the utensils were provided along with the hati buyah, and finally our drinks. We noticed that the service was improving as one staff from the 1st floor kitchen came down and coordinated their efforts. We empathize with the workers at the restaurant, it is not often that they have a full house. I wondered when if they did at all, broke their fast. The service was uncharacteristically slower, but it was not bad. Aminah Arif was having a good bad day. Good that they have a lot of customers. Bad that they couldn’t keep up.

Done with the main course we dropped by a convenience store to buy some snacks as desserts. Soft drinks and ice cream. Then my wife dropped me off to the swimming pool for my class.

During non-ramadhan my classes were 4 sessions x 1.5 hours. But because the pool only opens at 9-10pm during ramadhan, my classes turned to 6 sessions x 1 hour. So my syllabus changed a bit. But then again, my syllabus is very flexible, as it accounts for different people’s abilities. Tonight is the 2nd last class, but 1 out of 2 of my students were able to do 50m non-stop at the basement pool. But she has the advantage of being a floater. Their next session will involve swimming at the lap pool above, after refining their technique a bit more.

If it wasn’t for the rain and my wife waiting in the car, i would be tempte to run. So we went staright home. When we arrived, we were so tired and sleepy. My wife wasn’t able to juice as she usually does , and I went straight to bed and dozed off.

day 24 – khatamalquran, postal packages, triathlon day

Attended a khatamalquran funtion by Jabatan Penjara in the morning. (I was invited as I was involved conducting a workshop for the released) This is a ceremony usually done after 2 to 3 weeks of reading the quran by its section or juz. I haven’t attended one in a long time. unfotunately for me, I came in so early that they placed me next to the VIPs, which were next to the Imam, ustaz, and the officers. I was unsure of what I needed to do. Thankfully, there was a guidebook that was given, so it was just a matter of reading through it, and following cues by the imam or ustaz. being able to read fluently is an advantage of course. thankfully,  that is a skill that stuck to me from arabic school. I went to the office after that to do some work. there I found there was a postal card to pick up some parcels. I have recently used my office address instead of my home, as I found it more convenient. 

went home and my wife was ready to do an afternoon bike ride. Despite the windy and cloudy weatger, and some sporadic rain, we did. Thankfully it did not rain on our ride. She fared better this time around. What worked last time was we cycled out relaxed as a warm up, and cycled back fast. We did the same, and gps tracked she did her fastest 10km ride yet.

We broke fast with mostly food that my wife prepared before we cycled. Tortilla chicken with salad, we bought satay urat (ligament tendon on a stick) for the chondroitin supplement. 

The night I also had a swim class, I was half expecting the pool to be closed because of the rain. But pushed on anyway, went to the pool waited in line, waited for a few minutes for the pool guard to arrive, and went in. It was a productive class, as they students were able to swim the width of the pool.

After the swim class, I went out for a run. I realized this makes today a triathlon training day, as I swim 🏊 , biked 🚲 and ran 🏃 in one day, just not in that order. I learned from last time that I may need to start of slow as a warm up, to avoid my cold joints from being in pain and getting injured. So I warmed up for the first 2km at pace 8, but for the last 3km, I went fast, with a 5.5pace in some instances. MY GPS watch ⌚ was low battery 🔋 at this point, so I turned off the metronome, hoping that it would last longer, thankfully it did. And then at the end, I didn’t pack up and go in a hurry, and I did a few stretches. Targetting my foot and calves with lunges, and downward facing dog, and reaching my toes. I also stood on a ledge to massage the bottom of my foot.

On the way home, My car fuel was low, thankfully I knew a fuel station that was opened up till midnight at kilanas. At home  before sleep, I made sure I drank 750mL of water to hydrate myself. As well as to prepare for the fast the next day.

Day 21 – self control, another swim class and a late night run

Friday morning I had a workshop,  it went kinda faster than expected, considering the last session was dragging a bit. Not sure if I skipped a few things. 

During the break, I was mindfully being aware of what I ate. Remembering last time I ate and ran at night, I felt a bit bloated, and was having side stitches during my run. Looked up again a scishow video on side stitches. Its possible that either my stomache wasn’t used to running with food anymore, or there is too much fibre. My fibre mostly coming from the juice my wife made. I don’t think that is the culprit. 

At night had a swim class, this time I didn’t forget to take a selfie at the end of the class. Saw a fee triathletes with some ironman finishers training again at the pool, but this time they trained at the lap pool.

Then I went out on a run, but kept in mind the foot pain I had last time. It was either due to factors such as cold night mixed in with my wet shorts from swimming, and the swimming itself, (not much of a swim, mostly being immersed while teaching), causing the muscles and tendons to be tight and cold, and/or my running was too fast to soon, considering I haven’t been frequently running as I used to. So I went at a very relaxed pace of 8 mins/km. It was tempting to run at a faster pace whenever there were other people around, either them passing me by, or when crossing paths, but my slightly bloated stomache reminded me to slow down (apparently I still ate or drank a bit too much).  but at least the side stitches was only at the beginning. And the foot pain was almost negligible. 

Ended the run with a significantly long stretching session targeting my back muscles, hamstring and calves, mostly lunges and the downward facing dog pose. And a bit of stepping on a low ledge, pressing on the middle of my soles. Its what I used to do to fix my plantar fasciitis a few years back. Hopefully at this early stage I can stave off further injuries with stretches. Something I need to remind myself to do more at this age.