Ironwoman Courtney Hancock shares her tips on how to prepare for an ocean swim race

By Courtney Handcock

The Aussie Ocean Swim is an event where you will experience plenty of nerves, excitement and most importantly a connection with the ocean. I have been very lucky to experience many ocean swim races all over Australia and every single time I finish, I feel determined to start organising my next swim.

Swimming in the ocean is the closest connection you can have with the sea, a feeling you will never forget and a feeling you will want in your life every single day. Here are a few tips that any athlete should know, whether you’re a beginner or an advanced ocean swimmer, to help you prepare for your big swim.

The preparation

The lead up to the event is just as important as the day itself. Keeping a close eye on rest, hydration, nutrition & recovery are all key factors in helping you perform at your highest on the day. Check-in with your physio and doctor and consider building in a weekly massage and ice/hot baths as part of your recovery regime.

Fueling your body

When fueling your body for a big swim it really starts the week before. Making sure you load up on plenty of good fruit, vegetables, meat, rice, pasta and hydrate throughout the whole week.

On race morning, make sure you are up nice and early so you can have time to eat breakfast. I would suggest a meal that you have tried in training that will sit well in your tummy, something that is light and will fuel you for your race. I also like to have a gel about 30 minutes before racing for extra carbohydrates and sugar.


Warming up your body before you start will ensure you are ready to go right from the gun. An easy swim of about 5-10 minutes should warm up your body followed by 5-10 reps of 15 stroke sprints will fire up your heart rate so your body won’t go into shock when you expect it to go fast right from the start.

I also like to spend 30 minutes stretching and breathing. I feel this helps my mind and body relax and puts me into a headspace where I need to be before swimming.

The swim

Every time you are lucky enough to spend time in the ocean, respect it and love it for all that it is. There is always a sense of relaxation and connection with the water so take this into your race and love every minute of joy and hurt you experience as this is all part of racing.

Be smart, look for people in front of you to swim in their feet, read the ocean for rips for a quicker route out, ensure your goggles are set tight so there is no leakage, find the rhythm that suits you and don’t get too focused on people around you. Most of all have confidence in the preparation you have done.

Good luck and enjoy your swim!

Courtney x


Courtney Handcock is the only woman in history to win all major Ironwoman titles in the same year, the prestigious Coolangatta Gold, Australian Ironwoman title and Kelloggs Nutri-Grain Ironwoman series.

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  1. Hi Courtney,

    Thanks for the tips on ocean swims any help is great help especially for guys like me who have started ocean swims late in there life I am 56 years old and train hard for it now in the pool as too far away from the ocean as I live in East Ipswich, thinking about doing the 2km swim at Burleigh next weekend if I can get in, if not i have booked into the 3.8km swim at Forster NSW in April, done a few ocean swims, Hervey Bay 3km, Noosa 3km and Mooloolaba ? recently which was a shortened swim as swell was terrible and got dumped, love some more tips on swimmers who cant train in the ocean and only in the pool.

    Thanks Terry.