Cold Water Adaptation and Pool Swimming at the same time
SalishSea Nanaimo, BC CanadaMember
edited April 2014 in Beginner Questions
I am working on swimming in colder water and I am up to about 20 min but at the same time I am still logging most of my time in the pool. Are my 5-10 hrs/week in the pool canceling out the 60-80 min/week of cold water swimming? I am mostly thinking about the physical side as I can already see the differences in the mental side.
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I'm from South Florida. It was all I had and have to say that it worked out ok.
You know it when you're in it!
That said and in the interest of teasing this out, the ambient air temperature here is also lower, with temps of 24C the cause of national celebration and temps of 30C cause for a national shutdown.
Cold water hardening, i.e. acclimatization, i.e. the ability to stay in cold water water, is unaffected by immersion or swimming in warm water.
Once gained, cold water hardening is only lost slowly, with the research out of the Portsmouth Uni. Group showing that after six months without any cold water exposure, the previously "hardened" person still retains about two-thirds (I think that's the figure, it might be higher but is not lower) of their gained hardening (as measured by swimming time). With the passage of a full year, a previously hardened person will still retain up to 50% of their hardening.
In Florida, the water drops to upper 50s for a brief moment, hangs in the 60s for a lot of the winter to give us lots of time to train at this temperature, and is just now warming into the 70s. But pretty soon, it will heat up to the lower and then upper 80s...ie Key West training! Since most Florida pools are outside, even when we swim in the pools we tolerate cool water and air in the winter (especially if you swim at night in the pool...5-7 AM and PM workouts for me mean a lot of cold night swimming in the winter, even if the water is upper 70s!)
I was afraid after swimming in hot water all summer, plus losing some weight, I would have had a tough winter with the cold, but I tolerated it even better than the winter before. For me, half of it is learning to whine less.
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My last open water swim was in early October when I visited Cork for the conference and did one lap of Sandycove. Since then I have not swum outside, or in unheated lidos or dared to take a cold shower (I admire anyone who can do that, I can't even get my feet in!). I have only trained in heated pools for the last 6-7 months, at around 27C-29C. I love hot showers and hot baths, which is not really ideal given I mainly swim in British waters.
Tonight I went to the local lake which has just opened for the season. I swam for 50 minutes but decided not to be a hero and not to push it any further. My recovery was fine. The water was around 13C and grey, windy and raining. Two years ago I wouldn't have been able to do that, so I think that the body must have some "acclimatisation memory" from previous years.
Wait, does this all mean that I can start my shower with hot water, as long as I then switch it to cold? Can I go in the hot tub? Does avoiding hot water help acclimatize to cold water or does it have no effect?
Getting serious cold exposure is the key. Heat exposure when I'm acclimating doesn't seem to matter, thankfully. My n=1 experience, YMMV!
A safety note though. Trying to warm up too fast by getting in a hot tub or taking (what average people would consider) a hot shower, is dangerous. But if you try it (by dipping your fingers or toes in the hot water) your body will tell you that. It'll feel boiling. Hot air (dry sauna, car heater blasting) is fine since air doesn't transfer heat nearly as well as water. A hot tub after you've rewarmed sufficiently is heaven!
Life begins at the end of your comfort zone. --Neale Donald Walsch
I've been thinking a bit about this issue as well recently. Does one have to have a bunch of natural insulation or can a bag of bones such as myself acclimate to colder water?
I have always had a healthy aversion to colder water, but I'm thinking of testing my limits. I'm not going to waste my time if it's a general rule of thumb that skinny people can't last too long in cold water. But if I can lengthen my out door swimming season, that would be pretty cool.
Of course I will have to convince my lovely kayaker that she will enjoy being out on the lake in chilly weather. Maybe both of us will have to learn to acclimate.
I've met very thin people who could handle cold water just fine (cold as in down to winter/ice swimming levels.) I've met very fat people who could not handle cold at all. It's personal and depends on many things (that I'm not going to go into because I am not an expert.) I was talking about this recently with someone who wanted to explore chilly swimming (55-60f) and my advice was slow acclimation, learning your body's response, and trying new things. Learn your limits, learn how your body feels, and don't jump in unless you've acclimated because shock is a thing.
I now live in SC and the coldest I may get this winter is 55 or so. I don't think it will be that cold by December, which is when I'll be doing a swim in SF and in NYC. I am hoping my body remembers what it could do in 2017.
I never thought I would do the cold swimming I have been doing- including a One K at Five C last December. If you have a place you swim and can keep swimming as it chills, bonus points. I have a friend who will paddle, and if it is too windy, I hug the shore and my friend/s stay on shore. Contemplating a morning swim, but it is due to be near zero tonight, so the air before work will be brisk. . . Soon. . . the water should not be much below fifty yet. . .
I have been trying to get cold water acclimation in the bank and for a month now it has been well water soaks in the tub roughly 55F
I am not able to get much past ten minutes or so.
I grew up surfing in MD/ DE winters with a wetsuit and even during the summer I wore on the hottest days at least a 1 mm shirt
With a 2 miler coming up in two weeks now perhaps I have to accept I am not a skin swimmer yet.
A month isn't very long to get from wetsuit to 2 miles....especially just soaking.
It takes a while, Nick. You're making progress all the time, but do you need to put yourself under pressure to be ready in 2 weeks? You could just go and swim it wetsuited but carry on acclimatising.
There are so many massively experienced and more knowledgeable people on here who can advise you, but from personal experience, I needed an entire season of cold water swimming, in a safe environment, before I was confident I could do a 3k event without having to be taken out. That said, everybody has a different timescale.
Habituation is key....but also movement. Your tub is helping a little, but swimming generates warmth. If there's anywhere you can try actually swimming in lower temps, rather than just soaking, it'll feel different and you will manage longer.
Enjoy the process and your progress to skins.
@KatieBun Thank you for your words of encouragement.
I do find the members of this forum inspiring.
The mental anguish I was causing myself slowly melted away when I realized the most important lesson that came from the Covid, “You do you Boo.”
If I am not ready for the temp I can use a wetsuit.
Who knows what the future may hold I may get more acclimated to the cold water.
Also that not happen because I do not like being cold.
Many Thanks to you!
@Nick_P Soaking in a tub and swimming in cold water are two totally different things. When swimming, you'll be generating body heat to keep you warm. For comparison, think about sitting outside for 20 minutes on a cold day versus running outside that same day. If you're in shape, you can be a "skin swimmer."
Barcelona is that imaginary place where water seldom goes under 14ºC. So for swims let's say less than 1 hour you don't really need any adaptation. You just take it and press on.
Though I do have some adaptation, some winters (like this one) I don't swim much in the sea. My experience for these cases is that I can swim for 1 hour in 13/14ºC water without any problem. You only have to endure the first 10 minutes, then your body will generate heat, as said above. You should be fine for 30/40 minutes more, as long as you keep at least 50 strokes per minute or so. For the rest of your 2-miler, if you're not there still, your mind should do the job.
If you can, do a test the day before at the place of your swim. Not just dipping, but swimming for at least 15 minutes at your expected swim pace. 10 minutes after your first 10 minutes, you'll figure out if you can stand the cold.
If the water is below 55ºF/13ºC, I can't help you. I've swum a few times in my lido when it gets to 11ºC, and those times what I've felt is a big headache, which exceeded any other sensation of cold.
Thank you for your reply.
While my one swim buddy says don’t worry about pace
I can hold 1.50/ 100s for 7.5K and am not dying after so the swim is not as big a concern as my response to the cold.
@bruno that is exactly what I was thinking as well.
When I was preparing for my Issyk Kul swim, I would ramp down the temp of the water for my daily showers. Beyond that, I would not wear jackets outside while walking around. That helped immeasurably to getting my body used to being cold.
Granted, you don't have a lot of time, Nick P, and I had months to do the above, but, something to think about.
We're all just carbon, water, starlight, oxygen and dreams
So the day before I got about 20 mins in the bay and it felt okay
The swim went well all things considered.
Minus the calf cramps, I managed to handle those in training.
Here I am five days later and my calfs are still sore.
It cannot be the distance because I will do 4 miles on the pool this weekend.
Could the cold cause the extreme cramping in my calfs?