Cold water swimming and muscle aches

dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member

Hello gang,

I'm working my way into colder temps without a wetsuit, and it's going reasonably well. I have a DryRobe to throw on right afterward and warm up reasonably fast. Latest swim was an hour 5 mins. in 59 degrees, and for most of it I felt fine. Usually, I start out feeling good (and loving the beauty of nature and the way the ripples reflect on tree trunks and sun beams penetrate the surface. Then I start to feel cold after maybe 15 minutes, and yet my experience tells me this is going to be temporary--which it is. Once into 20-30 minutes, I'm feeling fine again and getting into a groove. I come out, warm up, shiver some, and get on with my life. :)

But the last couple swims, I noticed achy muscles similar to what one would get if coming down with the flu. First time I thought maybe not a good night's sleep, maybe after effect of a flu shot (although I was three days past that). The next day I was okay, and yesterday I had a lovely swim mentioned above. Then when I got home, there were the body aches. This time, I took acetominophen, used heat, went to bed early--and today feel fine.

So my question: do you get body aches after swims like this and if so, what's a good preventive? I don't want to stop acclimating to cold. It's a pretty intense, interesting ride, and also I'm planning an English Channel relay next year (covid and weather permitting, ha!) I also entered the Lake Memphremagog Winter Games--why not try something new, right?

So I want to be fully ready to go for these events. It's already exciting to learn what I can handle--at one time, I'd be in my wetsuit by now, although I've always liked the freedom of swimming without it. (I only bought it because I wanted to swim longer into the fall and start earlier in the spring. Now? Haven't worn it for a year and a half.

Thanks for tips as I continue to acclimate.



  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member

    I most certainly did after my first attempt at Issyk Kul; water was 56F. 2.5 hours and my joints ached after, but I didn't have the opportunity to acclimate beyond taking cool showers prior to the swim.

    Fast forward years to 2019, I started in Boston early (April?) and made it to 35 or so minutes in 51F (and well over an hour in 55-56F) with no after effects beyond being cold for an hour or so after. No aches, nothing.

    My biggest thing is being cold enough to wear a sweatshirt and run the heat in my car during a warm/hot May day, much to the chagrin of my wife who'd spent the entire time while I was swimming walking along the beach in the sunny, hot weather. ;)


    We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams

  • JacqueJacque M. (Germany)Member

    In my experience (7 years cold water swimming) muscle aches are normal at the beginning of the yearly acclimatization process, but tend to go away after some swims, when the body figures out just the exact amount of blood-flow to the muscles; this again gets easier (and faster) every year. Also, sometimes it just seems to happen out of the blue, but looking further into it there usually is a reason (underlying infect, bad sleep, not enough food, bad mood, hormones.... take your pick). In cold water I tend to listen to such signs very carefully and like to err on the side of caution and I've been swimming well with it. Happy swimming, everyone!

  • dpm50dpm50 PA, U.S.Senior Member
    edited October 2020

    Thanks for the responses! Did anothe OW swim tonight in a roasting 64 degrees. Took acetominaphin as soo as I got home and have a heat massage cape on. Perfect stuff! The swim itself mostly felt good.

    The usual pattern is that on 1st getting in, I think "this feels GREAT!" 20 or so mins later, I think ""whose silly idea was this?"'

    But Ive learned to hold out and be patient because Ill be back to "this feels great" in another 200-300 yards. Then all that gets me out is our kayaker letting us know time is up. (Like the bar patrons in TS Eliot's Waste Land who hear the manager calling, "Time, gentlemen, time." And I'm all bubbling with the joy of swimming--what? Stop?)

  • KristyW8KristyW8 New Member

    So addicting this cold water training! I find it very invigorating, and especially playing with that mental game of "I should get out now"... kinda fun. :smile:

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