Ice mile training

After digging around through forum and whatnot I found out Ice mile is a thing and I'm hooked on it.

I'm mostly average amateur swimmer, but I've been trying to extend my swimming season for couple of years, and this year I finally stayed in the water through autumn and into the winter. All the different sensations were really exciting and I'm confident and happy to be able to dive into water as long as its liquid, no matter how cold it gets. With that goal done, I want to continue for something more challenging, like under-ice diving and ice mile.

How would I go about training for Ice Mile?

As I said, I'm amateur, I learn to swim on my own and my swimming techniques are all over the place. I don't have any special personal doctors, trainers or support team. There's not really anyone around who would be even remotely interested, short from couple of friends who be like "yeah, I guess I can pull out my phone and film you being crazy for few minutes" ( ).

@miklcct said:
> @demented said:
> i have some questions about really cold water and weather. As in, icicles forming on my hair as I was swimming and splashing around today, hands were sticking to the metal ladder as i was trying to climb out.

What's the air and water temperature?

The water was around +4^C I guess (I measured couple of times with regular outdoor thermometer), it's a fresh water lake. The air temperatures here in January were about -5 to -15 ^C. That time in the youtube video I linked above, air was around 0^C, but once it was somewhat stormy and as soon as I popped out, some of my hair froze and you could clearly see frozen drops of water hanging. Now, I've experienced frozen hair before, but I guess the cap is mandatory? I'm more concerned about my hands and feet. I've tried some neoprene gloves, so totally didn't work. At these temperatures I stay in water for a minute or two, then it takes more than that to dress up, as your motor functions are greatly diminished. Now I ended up using boots and clothing with velcro or something that doesn't really require fingers. Saving time, I put all that on my steaming barely wet body and very much wet shorts and then it's a 500 meter bicycle ride home. The ride keeps me active and warm, but once I stop and attempt to put the key into a lock (hilarious), I start to shiver. I'm reluctant to put my head under that cold water as that short headache it causes is too concerning for now. Would it get better the more I do it? Would the cap make any difference? Next winter I'm planning not to stop diving either.

Perhaps there's something I could do to improve the condition of my toes and fingers? One day the pain was so intense I was getting nauseous and almost had to stop and sit down (obviously worst idea I could have ever come up with). After 10-20 minutes my hands and feet are completely back to normal without any sign of damage, but the memory itself is very discouraging. I've read around and I believe that cold pain would not remain in far extremities and would crawl up my body as I stay in cold for longer. Should I just direct some training into to getting used to it? I think I'm acclimatized enough not to feel much cold shock and it's been quite awhile since I had brainfreeze throughout whole body. I am familiar with cold-induced muscle and brain tiredness. What other sensations and dangers should I be ready for and how? For years random simple people warning me not to swim far (regardless of water temperature) as I might get muscle cramps and drown got me to a point I almost think the cramps are a hoax, or you have to have some specific medical conditions to get them.

Other than the stuff directly related to cold, I know I will have to put a lot of work into improving my stamina and general endurance, as well as swimming technique. I could use some tips about that too.

I've found out there was a guy called Haydn around here who completed Ice Mile. I don't suppose he's still active and eager to advice?



  • stephenrouchstephenrouch Indianapolis, INMember

    I recently completed an ice mile and would be happy to give you some advice.

    First, and I cannot stress this enough, is coming up with a safety plan.
    1. Do not ice swim by yourself (have someone there watching you and able to take care of you)
    2. Make sure you have an exit plan from the water.
    3. Wear a buoy or a belt to help facilitate if your observer needs to haul you out of the water.
    4. Have a plan for getting rewarmed. At a minute or two, you won't suffer a serious afterdrop, but as you try to swim longer, hopping on your bike and returning home is not going to cut it. Usually my rewarming environment is a car 'sauna' or going into the house at the lake I sometimes swim in.
    5. If something doesn't feel right, stop and cut your swim short.
    6. This will mess with your brain, you won't be thinking as well, all the more reason you need someone else around.
    7. I cannot stress the abundance of caution enough. These are not temperatures to mess around with.

    With the safety discussion out of the way (though that is by no means comprehensive).

    Getting past the first couple of minutes is the hardest part. Your blood is flowing to your core, and has a bit (or a lot) of pain associated with it. As for fingers and toe pain, it just happens. Swim faster and you might slow the pain a bit as your body heats up. For some people they do experience long lasting numbness in their extremities (weeks and months!), so if you notice this don't make it worse@

    Drink lots of fluid in anticipation of a cold swim, being hydrated helps.

    If you swim more than a few minutes you will likely experience an after drop, which is a period of uncontrollable shivering that will last until you are warmed back up. This can last for upward of 40-60 minutes for me. And this is in a warm room (after say a 20 minute swim at 4C).

    I would absolutely recommend a silicone cap, but sometimes you just can't avoid the headaches. They will go away, but you have to get them to get them to go away. Sometimes I get a headache at 13C but not at 4C. I do not wear boots or gloves, but depending on your cold water swimming goals they may be something you want to include in your wardrobe. But for a ice mile attempt, you will be in the standard uniform of a textile swimsuit, cap, goggles, and ear plugs and just cold water all around you!

    The most important things are to listen to your body and take the acclimation slowly. Do not go straight from 2 minutes to 20 minutes. Go a little longer each time and really try to understand your reactions so you can be better prepared as you go longer. And always keep safety as the primary driver. Listen to your body and stop if something doesn't feel right. There will always be another chance to find some cold water to swim in.

    Good luck!

  • SwimUpStreamSwimUpStream Portland Oregon Member
    edited February 2019

    @stephenrouch said:
    I recently completed an ice mile and would be happy to give you some advice.

    I have to agree with Stephen which for those who know us, doesn’t happen frequently 🤣. His advice runs parallel to mine. I have been training for my ice mile as well. Safety is one key to success; the second is community. Don’t rush your mile. Don’t get competitive with others. Don’t let the ego get involved. Do not place a timeline on achievement. Ice swimming is about being humbled as you pursue something so incrediblely badass. It’s about self care and the journey. You learn about your body and mind with each swim.

    Keep us posted and reach out as needed.

  • BridgetBridget New York StateMember

    My ice mile goal has evolved over the past six months- I really love my lake, and dislike driving fifty minutes to a pool, so I kept working on getting in for a swim every week, if not more. I bring someone with me if I'm getting in for even a few minutes, and on the times I've done a cold swim before work, I had someone else drive. There is already great information in this thread- Safety first. I was able to do half and full mile swims until the water was just under Fifty F, and then got really fussy about a land buddy/exit strategy, and paying attention- I start slowly- I wade in, get my hands wet, use a tow float, and I have the advantage of a waist deep beach with a gradual slope- once I'm in motion, I shift to the most shallow water I can pull in.

    Once I start, I push forward, get my face wet, and start to swim slowly- I can feel my circulation shifting, and my hands and feet start cold, and once in a while, my skin burns, but after a few minutes, I level off- if it is a good day. The weather in November and December was wonky here, with many sub-freezing nights and a lot of wind- I don't do cold swims in the wind because of the mental image of getting out and my clothes blowing into a tree. Reality isn't everything. Wind goes right through me on land, and I'm not doing this for punishment. . . I actually have been enjoying the strange cold swims. Getting in regularly is really helpful for me, and I felt better doing a swim a few days after a swim. Waiting a week or more made it more challenging. I'm still learning, certainly.

    I have found that FOR ME- preconceived notions are not useful. I may hope to do a half mile, or something, but I have to see how I feel in motion over time. I found that the drop from Forty Eight F to Forty one F was less of a problem than the drop from forty one F to thirty eight F. I did a One K qualifying swim on December Twenty, in twenty nine minutes, but only about three minutes at thirty seven F on January Fourth. I'm hoping to re-adjust when the ice melts, and I'm able to test the water again. I'd love to get back to feeling good at Forty F, or just under Four C, for the mile or more.

    Also, in water above about Fifty, I get out, dry and dress in a few minutes, then go for a brisk walk to ward off after drop. In the Forties, it is harder- at low forties, I was dressing as fast as I could, with spotters helping, and warm fluids WITH LIDS so I didn't shake hot cocoa into my eyes. The colder the water I swim in, the more I just sit out the after drop- with MANY layers- And before I get out of the water, I drop the straps off my suit, to make it easier to take off under towels. The One K was the hardest swim- but rewarding- a fabulous day, and if I could have had similar conditions within a week, I'd have felt confident for a mile.

    No matter what, I love being able to tolerate the cold more- I hope it allows me to build miles earlier in the lake season so I can drive less and swim more. Good luck to you :smiley:

  • Thank you, guys, for comprehensive answers!

    I see I'll definitely have to make my training more gradual and more consistent, as well as try to fill those safety gaps. If being not cautious enough is the biggest issue, l can slow down as much as it takes - not like there's any competition many miles around. I'm not in any rush to complete this and move on to something different. I'm planning to maintain the cold tolerance and endurance for the rest of my life.

    I'm looking forward on testing what levels of pain are just psychological boundary and when the actual damage, that I should worry about, is caused.

    I'll keep you posted :3

  • Today I've been in for 5mins 30 seconds. Last time before that was about 3 mins, and before that 2 mins. I mentioned about my toes feeling like being run over by a train. Well, today I was concerningly surprised to find the same feeling in one more "finger". Would the proper speedos be of any help there? Or... should I simply think something sexy next time...

    Also, what do you guys think of Wim Hof?

  • angel55angel55 Granada (Spain)Member
    edited March 2019

    Hello. I am looking for a thermometer in orden to train properly. Do you know when I can get one on line? And which model is good and cheap? Thank you.

  • @angel55 said:
    Hello. I am looking for a thermometer in orden to train properly. Do you know when I can get one on line? And which model is good and cheap? Thank you.

    Aquarium thermometers work well - you can get a cheap set of a few on Amazon. (See below for an example - not an endorsement of a particular brand. As far as I know one works as well as the next),aps,178&sr=8-1-spons&psc=1

  • Kate_AlexanderKate_Alexander Spring Lake, MichiganSenior Member

    @angel55 said:
    Hello. I am looking for a thermometer in orden to train properly. Do you know when I can get one on line? And which model is good and cheap? Thank you.

    I use a pool thermometer -

    It works quite well for temps between 50 and 88F. Not sure how it would work in colder temps tho.

  • angel55angel55 Granada (Spain)Member

    Thank you two. For me is enough. I will try one of them

  • dementeddemented Member

    Hello. It's been half of a decade now. Maye I should have started new thread? Anyways, for couple of years, during covid era, I didn't do ice swimming. But after that I got back into it. For about 2 years I learnt how to swim properly, all 4 strokes and stuff, even tho I'm slow swimmer. I've swam warm water marathon events, 2km in butterfly stroke. Would do 4km but can't fit in the maximum time limit due how slow I am, regardless of stroke. I doubt I can increase my speed well enough at my age, so seems like the next possible goal is ice swimming. Once again. This year I started to focus on cold water once again. With improved technique, confidence and experience I am more willing to push myself bit further.
    I've joined some average ice enjoyers for a bit. Like, 30 people. They would do some warmups on land, exercise. And then walk in to cold water for 2-5 mins and get out. For me 2-5 mins wasn't even long enough to cool off and submerge. Once acclimatized, I have no problem actively swimming for 10-20 mins.

    So, once again, my nemesis... Same problem as before. Feet, hands, even shoulders. And especially scalp. I suspect it might be related to fatty tissue distribution, but what can I do about it? I now have lots of hair and beard and mustache - I've been growing those for over 6 months, I've grown myself about 10kg of extra fat too. Probably none of it helps at all. If I push myself, it sometimes takes 5-10 minutes until pain is tolerable and with a cap I can finally swim for more than few meters without stopping, with proper technique, head submerged.

    I learnt not to care about the feet anymore. I can push through hand pain. But... Today I spent about 15 mins in complete torture whenever I attempted to submerge arms, even shoulders. Attempts to submerge head leads to intense cold pain within 5 seconds, which can last up to 30 second even after resurfacing. And THIS pain causes dizziness, even makes me nauseous. This is clearly not safe but what else is there to do other than try and try again? All these 15 minutes I was just walking around as I couldn't submerge myself enough to float. Low physical activity quickly drained my warmth and I started to shiver in water, which I usually don't let happen. For 5 more mins I attempted to swim, but head submersion attempts seem to get even worse. Rewarming was worst ever. For very short moment I had a thought of possibility of an ambulance, not that they would have anything useful to offer or arrive in any useful amount of time. I had 3 people with me this time, it helped. I couldn't ride my bike, I couldn't sit. It would have been horrible in all levels if I laid down. So I walked. After 20-30 mins hypothermia symptoms got reduced to like 10%. 2 hours later I'm perfectly fine home, other than mental aspect. Now, in some rewarming cases before I have experienced extended shivering for 2 hours and more. But this time the initial intensity was severe.

    Overall, this is very very useful experience, hard to say its a welcome one, tho. I can learn from it, considering what I did that day before, how I slept, what I ate, etc. How long I've been in water, what I did in there and how I felt. Clearly, spending valuable time in attempts to numb the pain is not the way to go. And forcing it is even worse - I feel I could pass out trying. So I suppose all I can do is train at home all the time, training sensitive areas with cold exposure until, hopefully, it starts to get better.

    I'm pretty sure that I could swim 1k already, at moderate-to-high intensity butterfly, maintain core temperature and fit in 30 mins. Ice Mile also isn't that far away. But, clearly, I can't just spend valuable time waiting for pain to go away before I start.

    So, the question is, has anyone experienced similar issues (intense cold pain in low fat areas such as head and arms), or can come up with any advice in ways how I could try to tackle this problem?

    I've come far, I learnt a lot. This is the only barrier that's holding me back. I don't wanna just write it down to some bad genetics and declare it all impossible...

  • It_a_wonderful_worldIt_a_wonderful_world Cambridge, UKNew Member

    I used to get severe brain freezes in my head whenever I exposed to cold water, but I overcame it through just keeping going and cold shower training.

    I would put my head in the 8° cold shower with no swim hat or anything, and would hold it there for about 1 minute. I would get a brain freeze after about 30 seconds, but would just keep my head there for another 30 seconds. Yes it was painful but not that bad compared to anaerobic training :D

    Anyways after about a month I never got a brain freeze when I had a swim hat on during my regular 5° swims so it was no longer a problem.

    I believe I never had issues with my hands because I have never worn gloves while cycling, even in really cold weather. Hence, they were already adapted.

Sign In or Register to comment.