"Cool" water swims

tamarktamark Member
edited September 2022 in General Discussion
My question might sound weird. I intend to participate in a 25k race at the beggining of June. It is in Spain and water tempreture would be about 21 deg. I generally swim in the mediteranean (and in the pool) in warmer water. I swam at about 20 degrees in the past; my longest swim in cool water was a 10k race ( about 21 deg ) and it felt ok without a wetsuit. (Swimming was fine; stopping to feed was cold) . Wetsuits are allowed and I can decide wether to use it or not in a few month but I'm not sure I can really anticipate the feeling of 8-9 hours in cool water . (I guess my longest swim would be about 17 k - 5-6 hours). Would it be wise to buy a wetsuit and use it anyhow ? I prefare swimming without it if it is a reasonable option.


  • MandaiMandai Charter Member
    Are you doing the XTRM 25k Cabrera channel?
    If so, note that they have a fast (~7+hrs) and a slower group (10hrs) and you cannot go at your own pace. One swimmer who swam w/o wetsuit had to be pulled this year after 4hrs because he couldn't let go... so, it was indeed chilly.
    Only 2 or 3 swimmer swam wetsuit w/o this year. But if you have been okay in your 10km swim then you should be alright to to the whole 25km w/o a wetsuit. Have you done Sa Dragonera this year, that is quite similar in terms of temperature?

  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    @tamark, at the risk of seeming dogmatic, let me quote the header:

    "those who seek to conquer the world's great bodies of water with merely a textile swimsuit, cap, and goggles."

    I guess there are not a lot of people here who are going to suggest a wetsuit. While they obviously have their place and are useful, and even essential, it's not what we as a group are about.

    My own view is if your want to swim in cool water (and for me 20C water is very warm), then you train to do so. Wear a wetsuit if you wish, it's your choice. Sorry if this answer is not what you want.


  • MandaiMandai Charter Member
    Gotta agree with LS.

    I forgot to mention that you might want to consider participating in the Best Fest, ie a series of 5 swims between 7 and 2.5km over 5 days in the same waters. The Xtrm is on day 7, ie you have a one day break before the big swim. You will thus have 5 shorter swims to test if you are okay with the temperature. Just bring a wetsuit as plan B in case you aren't...
  • Thanks Tobias; Cabrera channel is the one I'm heading to. Did you do it before ?
    I might take a shorter swim before; It depends mainly on the flights schedule. Preparing for a B plan is always advisable.
  • MandaiMandai Charter Member
    Tamark, I did it this year in a wetsuit and will do w/o next year as a prep for Menorca channel crossing in August. You can borrow my wetsuit if you want and size fits (just drop me a message). You'll enjoy the swim, very well organized and crystal clear waters.
  • Thanks a lot ! I'm a rather tiny women so probably the size doen't fit.
  • MandaiMandai Charter Member
    @loneswimmer - I just saw that you have detailed info on "cold" on your website, quite good actually. To get a bit more out of this thread - what's your take on using grease here? There are many opinion about grease on the web and it can be confusing. Considering that Tamark (and myself) simply don't have opportunities to train regularly in cold waters, could that be of (some) help? Related to this, what difference could it make if I would arrive 1 or even 2 weeks before a long swim to acclimatize? Is this sufficient to dealing (better) with cold/chilly water?
    Thanks, Tobias

    "Swimming in a wetsuit is like having sex with a condom.", King of the Rivers

  • IronMikeIronMike Northern VirginiaCharter Member
    Cold showers, baths, will help, I'm told. For a bit before my 10K in the UK I would end my showers by gradually reducing the temperature. Unsure if that helped any, because there were so many other problems with that swim (mandatory wetsuit, for one), but so far I'm having no problems with water down to ~14C.

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

  • MandaiMandai Charter Member
    edited September 2022
    Thanks Niek, good idea.
    It is somewhat comforting to read about new EC record holder Trent Grimsey's journey. Awesome, awesome performance!
    I cite, "Early on in his career, 20°C (68°F) was considered too cold. The slender 1500m pool swimmer with outstanding balance in his swimming style just couldn't handle cold water, let alone cool water. ".... "He gained muscle and he added on a layer of bioprene. ".

    With a BMI of 20.6, putting on weight and muscle seems to be a must for myself.
  • heartheart San Francisco, CACharter Member
    Bioprene. I love it! "I didn't gain weight, I added a layer of bioprene."
  • bobswimsbobswims Santa Barbara CACharter Member
    My training (thus far) has not included a program of increasing exposure to colder water. Let me first say that I am not thrilled by the prospect of having to swim in cold water, but do it only because the places I want to swim are cold. I have no aspirations to conquer cold water. 70° (21°C) is just fine for me, and if I am going to be in the water 12 hours I'd be fine with 74° (23°C).

    The approach I took for Catalina was the simple heat generated must equal heat loss equation. So I worked on increasing muscle mass and adding body fat. But I am also convinced that mental preparation was just as important. Before Catalina I did a little swimming in the San Francisco Bay and taught myself the difference between "Damn that water is cold" and "Damn I'm cold". Frankly it was a real learning experience for me. This was very important because I trained almost exclusively in a 83° (28+° C) temperature pool. On my Catalina swim the water temperature ranged from approx 65° (18.5° C) for almost the entire swim, to 60° (15.5° C) in the upwelling area approaching the coast. Water temperature was a nonissue for me, but I did have my feedings warmed up.

    So I think that unless you BMI is that of a world class pool swimmer, you should be able to swim comfortably in the water temperature you are facing. Of course you might need to redefine "comfortably" for yourself. Stealing from Lawrence of Arabia: it's not that the water isn't cold, it's just that you don't mind that it's cold.
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Member
    @Mandai, I crewed a friend's EC Solo last week. He had no cold water access. For two years he's been on cold water baths & showers (including baths with ice), lighter clothes and a couple of trips to Ireland to train with us. It was our plan over a 2 year period. He was completely fine in the EC. I'm glad all the cold stuff I've writing for two years is of some value, it's my favourite subject.

    No lube retains heat or it would be illegal. Anecdata from some swimmers says they find lanolin "colder" than vaseline.

    Also, (some dropping here), according to him & his coach, Trent put on 10kg over the past year. It aided not just his cold withstanding ability, but also significantly increased his recovery time and decreased his illnesses.


  • MandaiMandai Charter Member
    Thanks @bobswims and @loneswimmer, appreciated; that was the kind of info I was looking for. I've a 15 and 20km swim coming up this Oct and Nov in 19 to 21C waters in Hong Kong and Australia to round up the this year and will see if ice baths will do given the little time left. Bioprene will be the add on for Menorca channel and hopefully Catalina channel for next year.
  • LaurieLaurie New Member
    edited September 2022

    I would like to do some longer swims next year but have issues with cool water (75 and below), don’t ?. The main pool I train in is kept at 86 degrees for therapy patients. Distance is never an issue but have had to cut 2 races short due to hand numbness and uncontrollable shivering. Air temp also makes a difference. Is there a way to train my body to tolerate the cooler water temps? Any advice is appreciated!

  • musclewhale89musclewhale89 Alberta, CanadaMember

    75 degrees is quite warm. You might have some serious circulatory issues if you are getting uncontrollably cold at temperatures like that. I would definitely say you should go do some tests at your doctors and make sure there isn't something wrong. If you're good to go, you are going to want to start very easy. Start with just turning your shower colder and colder, graduate to a cold water bath, then add ice. Basically just progressively overload your system with colder and colder water. Try swimming in colder water once your comfortable after that. 75 degrees just seems like such a high temperature. I would almost have trouble swimming in that due to it being too warm. Its like 24 degrees Celsius.

  • LaurieLaurie New Member

    I am a nurse and get yearly blood work /tests done so it’s not a circulatory/ medical issue. I will start with cool showers etc and try that. The fact that they keep the pool at 86 doesn’t help, I’ll also look into other pools win the area to get some swims in somewhat cooler water. Thanks for the info!

  • JSwimJSwim western Maryland, USSenior Member
    edited September 2022

    I think finding an alternative pool that’s kept at a swimming temperature (78 - 82 F), rather than a therapeutic temperature, will help you acclimate to cooler water tremendously. 86 F is insanely hot for a pool unless you’re just floating around. If you're okay with swimming a work out at that temperature then you are acclimated for hot water. No surprise you have trouble in the 70s F. Perhaps there are swimmers who are good with cool and hot water at the same time, but that isn’t me.

    The more cold acclimated I am the less I can tolerate warm (above 78 F) swimming pools. I feel hot, cranky and I swim slower. So during the outdoor swim season I don’t swim inside at all if I can help it. During the winter I get more used to pool temperatures, so I’m not too bad if the water is below 82 F. Though I’d still prefer mid 70s F or below.

    I have been at events where I thought the water was too warm (mid to low 70s) only to get on the boat and see someone swathed in towels, shivering with blue lips and finger tips. You aren’t alone in finding 70s “cold”. However I do think most healthy people can train their bodies to work well at those temperatures. Probably 60s too. It just takes some time (though not as much as you might think), a plan and determination.

    And don’t worry if it doesn’t seem to get any easier to get into “chilly” water. What matters is how you feel after you’ve been swimming for a while. For me, the hardest part is getting wet (unless the water is below 50 F).


    Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch

  • CazzwimCazzwim UK.New Member
    edited September 2022

    @Laurie apologies if this is teaching you to suck eggs. May I respectfully ask if you are actually training in open water at all before attempting the swims? From your initial post it sounds as if you are only training in the pool before your events. Also when you cut the previous races short were you swimming in a wetsuit or in skins? An obvious remedy is to add in open water training, gradually increasing your time in the water.

    If you do not have ready access to open water do you have any space where you can put up a large paddling pool? I trained for an English Channel relay during the Covid 19 pandemic in a 36" deep inflatable pool whilst attached to a tether. I was in it at all times of day and night to get exposed to different water and air temperatures. This gave me sufficient acclimatisation for the event.

  • The tips are spot on and match what the community told me as well. Get colder water exposure
    Start with the shower and really swimming in “cooler” water is way different from wading in it.
    Also mid 80s is over heat level.

  • LaurieLaurie New Member

    Thanks for the advice. I will definitely try the inflatable pool and tether. I do quite a bit of open water but live in central Kentucky where the water heats up quickly.

  • evmoevmo SydneyAdmin
    edited September 2022

    A gentle reminder to please take advantage of the Search box at the top of the main Forum page.

    There have been dozens and dozens of discussions over the past 10 years on cold water swimming / acclimatization / cold showers / ice baths / etc / etc. It is preferable to comment on one of the existing threads, rather than creating a new one.

    See here: https://forum.marathonswimmers.org/search?Search=cold

    And especially this thread: https://forum.marathonswimmers.org/discussion/7/

    And this one: https://forum.marathonswimmers.org/discussion/117/

    Full disclosure, I merged @Laurie's new thread with an old one from 2012.


Sign In or Register to comment.