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Thread: "Cold" water swim yesterday... need advice

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    Very Active Member FindingMyInnerFish's Avatar
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    "Cold" water swim yesterday... need advice

    I want to be able to do some cold water swims w/out a wetsuit, but now I'm not so sure I'm capable of such things.

    In fact, yesterday, I was pretty sure I'd never try a cold water swim again. And it wasn't even that cold by the standards of some of you. Air temp in the 40s, water temp (I'm told) 56... although I also heard low 60s. I'm not yet a good judge of temperature so I don't know. Weather got a bit chilly the last few days, and yet I'd planned to join my masters' group for an open water swim and I wasn't about to pull the plug on that without a fight.

    I also had thought I'd be strong, not wear a wetsuit. (I don't even own one.) But at the last minute, I emailed a friend and asked if I could borrow hers--she was going to watch but not swim.

    It occurred to me that given my lack of experience swimming in those conditions, I should start gently, not go right to a swimsuit. But I still felt like a wuss.

    We swam laps around a buoy placed (I think) about 100-150 yards away from the dock where we went in. My thought was to go four laps (I know, pretty short) and see how I felt. First lap my chest felt very tight and I had a hard time breathing. (That might have been the effect of the wetsuit--I don't wear them normally and managed to swim okay without one a few days earlier--water in low 60s but air temp wasn't as cold.) Then I began to feel more comfortable, swim more relaxed. But I still didn't quite feel as if I was adjusting. On the last lap, I was going off course and hit my head on the dock--luckily at my speed it wasn't too hard a hit, so I wasn't hurt. But I decided that was my stopping point.

    It took me a while to stop shivering, but that wasn't unexpected. What concerned me was how long it took to recover--the rest of the day I felt under the weather, sore, exhausted, even with such a small amount of swimming.

    Don't know if this had anything to do with it, but before the swim, I thought it might help if I took a run--overdressed so I'd be warm enough to want to jump in (maybe a mistake). So I ran about a half hour w/ a backpack (probably about 4-5 lb not heavy), and yes, I was pretty warm but the dressing room was chilly, and getting the wetsuit on took a bit of time since I'm not used to wearing one.

    I'm wondering if the soreness had more to do w/ the running or with the fact that my muscles tightened more than usual in the water or what.

    Now I'm rethinking whether I should even consider anything in cold water, such as Boston Light which has been my goal--but 8 miles in what felt like a struggle in a wetsuit for such a short time? I'm not so sure now. I know it's not until next year. Also my longest swim this past year was seven miles (albeit a very slow seven miles) and I was able to PR in a 5.5 mile swim in July (current assisted, but still...) at a pace that would allow me to finish BLS (although overall, I'm not a fast swimmer, so maybe this would be too much race for me now... or at all).

    I love trying new challenges, doing what i'm afraid to do--well, maybe "love" wouldn't be the word I'm thinking of, maybe NEED--and despite how I felt yesterday, I don't really regret the swim, more the fact that I was so wimpy that I was the first one out of the water and that I wore a wetsuit. A friend was in for an hour without a wetsuit! And she loved it! I admire her immensely!

    But could that ever be me? I don't know.

    So those of you who now regularly swim in cold water--did you enjoy it at first or was your experience similar to mine?

    Or... is there hope that I could get to like this? I didn't like spinach when I was a kid and like it now, so there's that... and I didn't like running uphill until I heeded the advice of Olympic runner Jeff Galloway during a running clinic to repeat to myself "I love hills"--and lo and behold one day I was running up a hill and thinking how much I enjoyed it... and thought, "Jeff, you rascal!"

    What tips do you have for before, during, and after (besides losing the wetsuit, which I know I'll need to do... i saw the wetsuit as a kind of stepping stone).

    Thanks for any advice/feedback. I still want to do BLS. Now I know I'm a sick chick! (And I have to admit when the rower I talked to briefly when I came out said I was crazy, I took it as a compliment--but felt I hadn't really earned it.)

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    Moderator Rob Copeland's Avatar
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    Re: "Cold" water swim yesterday... need advice

    Some basic advice for cold water training.

    Buy a good pool thermometer. “Someone said the temperature was…” can be a recipe for mishap. Also, you may be swimming near a water data collection site, some report water temp, so check out http://waterdata.usgs.gov/nwis or www.NOAA.gov

    Know the signs of cold water immersion distress. http://coldwaterbootcamp.com/ has some good information. Also check out http://marathonswimmers.org/

    Never train alone and for cold water it helps to have on-the-water support. A swimmer rescuing a cold incapacitated swimmer will take much longer to complete a rescue than a kayak rescuer and those minutes can be critical.

    Be warm before the swim and get warm after the swim. If you are chilled before you start you will lose body temperature faster during the swim. If you are wearing a wetsuit for you swim keep it on when you get out and if it is sunny lay in the sun and let the wetsuit absorb the heat. Also keep your cap on to retain heat until you get to a warm place. And on cold days put your cap on before you go outside, you can lose heat from your head standing around before you start; a dark colored silicone or neoprene makes a big difference.

    Keep the wetsuit. If the water temp is in 50s – mid-60s you are better off using the wetsuit this season and try cold water acclimation more gradually in the spring and next fall.

    As you swim concentrate on a strong kick and a faster turnover. Working the larger muscles and elevating the heart rate will burn more calories, generating internal heat.
    The opinions expressed in the above post are mine and not those of U.S. Masters Swimming.

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    Re: "Cold" water swim yesterday... need advice

    you can also "train" yourself to tolerate the cold. Take cold showers, keep the temperature down in your house....An acquaintance who swam the North Channel used these techniques, and others outside of the water. he also trained outside in a local lake as much as possible, including winter time (in Pennsylvania).

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    Very Active Member FindingMyInnerFish's Avatar
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    Re: "Cold" water swim yesterday... need advice

    Thanks for the suggestions! One thing you can be sure of...absolutely zero risk of my training in cold water alone. I was called crazy but I'm not suicidal. Besides, at the very least I'm going to want to sucker a friend into suffering with me.

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    Very Active Member FindingMyInnerFish's Avatar
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    Re: "Cold" water swim yesterday... need advice

    Quote Originally Posted by FindingMyInnerFish View Post
    Thanks for the suggestions! One thing you can be sure of...absolutely zero risk of my training in cold water alone. I was called crazy but I'm not suicidal. Besides, at the very least I'm going to want to sucker a friend into suffering with me.
    Definitely would want some kind of non-swimming support too, whether someone in a kayak or (if feasible) on shore. I always swim with a group--a terrific group too with coaches certified in life saving.

    So I see that people acclimated to cold water--but do people eventually even enjoy it if they don't at first? I can see it being a draw if you at least somewhat enjoy it, and I've had experiences where it was (my favorite phrase) "fun in a weird sort of way."

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    Moderator Rob Copeland's Avatar
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    Re: "Cold" water swim yesterday... need advice

    Quote Originally Posted by FindingMyInnerFish View Post
    So I see that people acclimated to cold water--but do people eventually even enjoy it if they don't at first?
    Think of cold water swimming like single malt scotch. It’s an acquired taste that isn’t for everyone. But for those who acquire the taste there is something special about spending time with other aficionados imbibing in a good cold water swim.
    The opinions expressed in the above post are mine and not those of U.S. Masters Swimming.

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    Very Active Member FindingMyInnerFish's Avatar
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    Re: "Cold" water swim yesterday... need advice

    Quote Originally Posted by Rob Copeland View Post
    Think of cold water swimming like single malt scotch. It’s an acquired taste that isn’t for everyone. But for those who acquire the taste there is something special about spending time with other aficionados imbibing in a good cold water swim.
    Well, now, if there's a swim-up bar with single-malt scotch available, I'm in! <jk> (I know you don't mix alcohol with cold water swimming... although come to think of it, didn't Matthew Webb partly fuel his EC swim with brandy?)

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    Very Active Member FindingMyInnerFish's Avatar
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    Re: "Cold" water swim yesterday... need advice

    This is an old thread, I know, but I just noticed it at the bottom of the page under a newer cold water swimming thread.

    Proud to say I participated in Suzy Dodds' 24 Hour Relay the first weekend in Feb. 2018, and enjoyed it--and swam without a wetsuit! I did, however, wear a neoprene cap, so there's that. Also, although the first swim lasted an hour--adrenaline flowing!--the second swim, while not disastrous by any means, wasn't as strong and I began to feel queasy after a half hour, so took an early exit. That one was harder to recover from, but I eventually did; however, I skipped the night swims by way of caution. The next morning, I took another swim (no wetsuit) and again felt great and enjoyed it thoroughly!

    Air temp was pretty warm, high 70s daytime, high 40s at night; water 53-54 degrees--warm air no doubt helped. I'd brought a wetsuit but out of curiosity decided to swim without it for the first swim--and liked it so much, I never took the wetsuit out of my bag (which made for carrying a dry wetsuit on the plane home, something I'm grateful for too!). I MIGHT be a cold water convert... MIGHT be.

    When I took that above-mentioned swim, I never thought I'd ever be able to swim skin in that temp--lowest temp without a wetsuit. Stoked!

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    Very Active Member SwimDogs's Avatar
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    Re: "Cold" water swim yesterday... need advice

    Congrats on participating in the 24-Hour Relay!

    Just curious FindingMyInnerFish:

    With your experience and 2.5-years under you belt, what advice would you have given yourself in October of 2015?

    Mark

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    Very Active Member FindingMyInnerFish's Avatar
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    Re: "Cold" water swim yesterday... need advice

    Quote Originally Posted by SwimDogs View Post
    Congrats on participating in the 24-Hour Relay!

    Just curious FindingMyInnerFish:

    With your experience and 2.5-years under you belt, what advice would you have given yourself in October of 2015?

    Mark
    Good question! Mindset is probably huge! And supportive swimmers nearby helped a lot. I came to it nervous but also excited to see and swim in this iconic venue. Weather was gorgeous, air temp in 70s, and there was a sauna to use afterward. It seemed the ideal setting for trying something new. Plus, I'd gotten more experience w cold water, granted with a wetsuit (lowest temp in a wetsuit, 38 degrees), so I knew what to expect.

    Seeing so many people taking the plunge without a wetsuit gave me courage to give it a go. And the captain of my relay team offered helpful advice as well, re breathing, etc. It didn't take long before I had my face in the water, maybe 4-5 minutes (less strain on the neck!). Also, I spent about 15-20 minutes before swimming in prayer /meditation, then some warm-up exercises, such as jumping jacks, running in place, arm circles, etc.

    So....

    1. Relax and enjoy, meditate and/or pray
    2. Have support (people, facilities. ... sauna is nice or just somewhere indoors to warm up)
    3. Prior experience helps. I had less in 2015 than now. If you go skin, it's good to get started in lower temps w a wetsuit.

    Sent from my SM-N910V using Tapatalk

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