Swimming in Cold Water

Taking into account our recent winter-like spring weather in Utah, here are 10 useful bits of advice for swimming in cold water from www.10kswimmer.com. Swimming in cold water to me has usually meant putting on a wetsuit and maybe a couple of caps, but this list offers new (to me) and practical advice that I will consider next time I decide to swim in cold water.

1. Use lanolin to help alleviate some of the "sting and shock" of cold water. The lanoline should be firmly pressed into the skin, especially around the neck, under arms, around the torso and upper legs. It is best to apply with rubber gloves and, remember, lanolin is tough to get off.

2. Use tight-fitting silicon ear plugs; an old surfer's trick.

3. Wear 2-3 heavy silicon swim caps - or better yet - a neoprene surfer's cap that completely covers the ears with a strap that goes under the chin.

4. Acclimatize over time where one gradually builds up from a few minutes in the cold water to a few hours. It helps if one gets in twice per day, if possible.

5. Swim as close to shore as possible, even if one has to fight through surf. If not possible, then swim with a kayak, boat, paddleboard escort, or with another swimmer.

6. Use a surfer's rashguard, wetsuit, triathlon speedsuit or technical swimsuit.

7. Drink warm liquids before and immediately after.

8. Jog along the shore, initially with only then feet, then the lower legs and then the upper legs in the water if the water is really too cold to first jump in. Then get your hands wet and splash water on your face and upper body before jumping in.

9. Roll over on your back if you hyperventilate when you first get in. Take deep breaths while you are swimming backstroke. Try to kick strongly, but take smooth long strokes with your arms while you control your hyperventilation. After you can breathe normally, then roll over on your back and start to swim freestyle.

10. Think positively, but always think intelligently. If you are shivering or continue to hyperventilate, get out.

Any other tips you have for cold water swimming?


Anonymous said...

I would like to know the health benefits of swimming in cold water w/out wet suits etc? I speculate from experience, and constantly seeking open water near 64-66 that blood circulating to keep warm throughout the entire body must be like one hugh blood message, giving a total body health benefit.
In addition to 'character" building and mental toughness.

Josh said...

I have heard that there are health benefits from cold water swimming. Improved circulation and immune system are supposed to be two of the benefits.

I choose to swim in cold water because of the rush of endorphins that comes after recovery. It's a true natural high! I agree that it does build mental toughness. It take a lot mentally to force yourself to get into cold water.