I have read accounts from aspiring English Channel Swimmers who have come before me that through repeated bouts of swimming in cold water your body can acclimatize to the cold, after my first few cold water acclimatization swims I was doubtful, there must be an easier way, a quick fix!
Here is what I learned… the best method is the one that works best for you, that means you try things that have worked for others, experiment with things of your own and keep what works best for you, the following is what works for me so far……
No shortcuts get in and swim
Start in the late summer, each week the temperature will drop slightly, swim through the fall even if it is a quick dip, it is less shocking than taking your first plunge in spring, I was too impatient and green around the gills to wait, I swam in Vermont in May in 52 degree water, and it was not pretty.
Here are some tips to help you navigate cold water training…….
- Ear Plugs– help reduce cold water in ears and reduce risk of ear infections
- Eat Well before you swim– a belly of porridge pre swim meal was recommended to me by Irish distance swimmers, it really helps
- Hot Feeds– taking in a hot liquid Carbohydrate drink before and during your swim helps not only warm you but keep your energy levels up, cold water swimming consumes major calories, frequency of feeds vary from swimmers to swimmer from every 15 minutes to hourly.
- Entering the water– walk in style gives the mind some time to adjust as opposed to the plunge method, you’ll figure out what works best for you.
- Pee before and regularly during your swim, it helps.
- Have support– to help monitor you in the water, bring someone who can watch you for signs of hypothermia.
- Claw Hands– if you notice your hands begin to claw, make a fist and open your hands a number of times as you swim, this can help un-claw, clawed hands don’t catch as much water= slow swimming.
- Plan your exit– you have approximately 2 minutes to get sorted once you are out of the water, lay your towel, clothes, hat, and blankets out pre swim so you can quickly dress.
- Air Temperature– if the air temperature is lower than the water temperature you core body temperature will plummet fast once you exit the water, especially if it is windy, making your way to a car is a good move, auto unlocks are the ticket as cold fingers struggle to navigate unlocking by key
Patience– Once you are bundled up it is a waiting game, the muscles in the body go into involuntary contraction trying to raise your body temperature, it can be uncomfortable, be patient, it will pass over time.
Hot Chocolate/ or hot beverage of your choice– fill your cup half full, hypothermic hands shake, you will spill if filled to the top
Warm vs. Hot– use warm water, when you are cold boiling hot water will feel scalding, add a little cold water to your post swim hot drink, it will still feel hot to you, but not scalding.
Moaning and groaning may make you feel better but others tire of it fast- giggling through clenched jaws is a lot more fun and seems to expedite recovery
Do not drive with hypothermia– if you have slurred speech and the tremors, wait a bit longer
Hypothermia with friends- is much more appealing, rally up some fellow swimmers willing to enjoy a cold water swim with you
Have Fun, cold water swimming is exhilarating and has been said to have positive effects on your health, it has been prescribed as been enjoyed by those who have come before us and utilized as prescription for various ailments for centuries.
The getting in and out that can be a bit fierce, but with some planning and time in the water you can improve your body and mind’s tolerance to cold!
NAVIGATING WARMING UP: MY TOP TEN LIST
1. Sauna – At the Dolphin Swim Club and South End Rowing Club in San Francisco you walk out of San Francisco Bay’s cold waters up the beach and into the Sauna, Luxurious
2. Beating After Drop( Termed by Lone Swimmer) – this is when the body temperature plummets after exiting the water, you are no longer swimming, the heart rate is no longer elevated helping to warm the body, mix in cool air temperature and wind chill and you have got a plunging core temperature. 2 minutes to dress in warm clothes after exiting the water if my window of time
3. Blanket– Heaven to wrap up in post swim
4. Wooly Hat
5. Hot Chocolate
6. Woolly Slippers– Easy to slip clumsy, feeling-less feet into
7. The Car– A safe haven from chilling winds, once I’m in you need a shoe horn to pry me out
8. Heated Seats– this used to be my # 1, I have weaned myself off heated seats and now save them for the direst of conditions, snow, ice below freezing air temperature is a “ Heated Seat Worthy Day”, like this day below air below freezing, blowing snow, water 47 degrees Fahrenheit, the swim was great, getting out….brutal.
9. Get Moving– getting the heart pumping will help you warm up, although painfull on the feet walking around will help you warm up
10. Hot Shower– LOVE IT!
HYPOTHERMIA- things to know before you start cold water training
Normal Body Temperature 98.4 F (37F)
Mild Hypothermia = Core Temperature falls below 95F (35C)
Shivering & Blue Skin
Inability to concentrate
More likely if exhausted, dehydrated, hungry and or injured
Core Temperature falls below 30 C
No Feeling Cold
Skin looks like a corpse
Next step Cardiac arrest
Now on to training, you will figure your training out as you go….