View Full Version : Cold water - overcoming fear

September 27th, 2005, 12:18 PM

September 29th, 2005, 10:45 AM
Spurred on by all the swims and crossings that I read about on the internet my tolerance for cold water has greatly increased. I would like to encourage all those who are still afraid of cold water and just need this extra push.

Here in Austria the concept of open water swimming does not even exist. I guess that's why you can't find Austrians on any list about successful crossings. But reading about all the adventures that people share on this forum I get highly motivated.

Just a brief description of my training conditions:
Parallel to the Danube river there is a flooding channel that is 20 km's/12.5 miles long, and on the avg. 150 meters/165 yards wide. There are milestones every 500 meters/550 yards along the banks of the channel. That is a great opportunity of controlled and safe solo-training. Besides, the water is surprisingly clean.

Now is the best time of the year to acclimatize to cold water. Last wednesday my Suunto D3 (Dive Computer with thermometer) showed 59F/15C. I lasted for 30 Minutes in my swim-trunks. On sunday the sun was out and I lasted for 60 Minutes in 61F/16C. Not only does this increase the tolerance for cold water, but it is also strengthening the immune-system to stay clear from colds in the winter.

I am very well aware that there is a huge difference between spending one hour or spending 10 hours in sub 65F water. Besides, I only weigh between 175-180 with a size of 6'1. But the main point is that I overcame the fear of cold water and start enjoying it. I keep all the details in a diary to keep track of my improvements.

I guess 65F could be the dividing line between "warm" and "cold" water. Allegedly salt water feels warmer than fresh water with the same temp.

Last year I had my longest try in sub 65F water: I lasted for 3 hours in my swim trunks and was supported by my wife who supplied me with food from rafts tied to the bank in approx. 1000 meter (0.62 mile) intervals. When I got out of the water I had a mild hypothermia, but I didn't get sick!

With increasing tolerance for cold water, the danger of getting sick is decreasing while the danger of hypothermia is increasing.

I have attached a picture where you can see me after getting out of the water after 3 hours (my son is in front of me). My face is somewhat between blue and grey and it was just about time to get out :)

Have a great fall,

September 29th, 2005, 11:57 AM
I like what you write Gerald! Very interesting to read...

Keep up the good hard work, and STAY WARM!!


PS: nice photo! Thanks for adding it to your story!!

December 23rd, 2005, 08:20 AM
Its always good to hear from You, Maryyyyyy. You are very motivating and You are pulling people like a huge magnet into the water. Dont underestimate the positive influence that You are having on us here on this forum.

It looks like I have come across open water swimming by providential circumstances:
While my tolerance for the heat is decreasing my tolerance for the cold is increasing.
The consequences are 3-fold:

1. I am getting uncomfortably hot when I am running. I used to run the Vienna City Marathon every spring. In process of time this event has been shifted ever closer towards the summer and sometimes I was running 42 Ks with temps up to 30 / 86F. Now I dont even enjoy running in temps above 15C / 59F. Among endurance activities, running has the least efficient cooling system. (Swimmers have cool water and bicycle riders have a constant breeze). By now I find it easier to swim 2-3 hours in cold water (temps like 18C/ 65F) than running in the heat for 2-3 hours. During the winter season I dress lightly preferring to run/walk instead of waiting for trams and busses. Needless to say that I dont feel comfortable in overheated, closed office rooms (where I find myself from Monday to Friday between 9 and 5).

Now I understand why the vast majority is always having a hassle with colds and flues, because they never strengthen their immune system through exposure to the cold and through exercise.

2. The water has always been my element and I am an avid freediver (breathhold diver). As a freediver I made some national records in both deep and distance diving, using just a diving mask and a pair of fins. At the moment I am improving my swim style by trying to reduce drag and to glide more efficiently. This in turn has helped me to improve my distance diving.

3. Because of my long running history I find it easy now to translate stamina into the water.

I would like to wish to all of you merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
I wish You a bunch of good, long and fulfilling swims for 2006