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  #1  
Old 05-31-2011
tab tab is offline
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Default 64 degree Open Water

I have been monitoring my local water temps. The weather has been mostly cloudy since ice out this spring, only a hand full sunny days. I was surprised at the 64 degree water temp yesterday afternoon. The first warm day, air temp hit low 80s. So after returning home from work two of my family and I went to the lake.

I have never in 45 years been in swimming, on purpose, this early in the season. What I noticed was that 64 degree water was, at first a bit of a shock, and soon realized it was not bad at all, comfortable really. The reflex to take a breath while the head is under water is a powerful effect, though. It took a while for this to subside a little, it never did totally, or no where near what a 83 degree pool feels like. I am assuming with more time the body will familiarize itself with this condition? And as the summer progresses the water temps will rise making it easier as well.

Is there any tricks to over come this phenomena? It starts as soon as the water reaches over my knees and progresses up the body and is most prevalent once the head is submerged. Again with my head underwater I feel as if I must take a breath, it is just the opposite of choking, although I am sure I would choke if I took a breath when my body wanted to. It is a fight to not to take a gulp of air. I have to force myself to to breath out, all energy goes into that, no stroke thoughts what so ever. This feeling did change and lessen the longer we were in the water. It was funny to look at the blackflies swarming around our heads, tough little buggers.

The temps taken were in the top layer of the lake, 4' down it was much colder. I also chuckled when I realized I was shutting my eyes under water, even with goggles on. By the end I was able to peek through the murky water and breath out my nose some what, only a matter of seconds at a time.

Any thoughts? Thanks
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  #2  
Old 05-31-2011
AWP AWP is offline
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Originally Posted by tab View Post
Any thoughts? Thanks

Only that what you've experienced is typical of getting acquainted with cold water swimming. Like you stated this too will pass the more you immerse yourself in cooler waters and it will become quite familiar, cold yes but familiar; I think that is the 'difference'.
Now in what will be my third season in OW, I 'knew' (know) what I'll feel when I step in the water in May (this years first was 56F) and can easily get on with the swimming, no pre- immersion antics.
What I do:
Aside from making sure you have all the essentials for before during and after, stretch gently but thoroughly, this will help prevent your muscles from tightening up after 'uncommon' exposure or cold water "shock".
Double up on the swim cap. This helps my comfort by keeping 'out' the cold from my ears and base of my skull or any added discomfort to my head (I'm follicle-ly challenged).
I do have a breathing 'exercise' that I do as I stroll in (esp. important for me in sub 60F water). I begin inhaling fully through my mouth and exhaling through my nose. I do this in a somewhat rapid fashion but rhythmically not sporadically. The deeper I wade the more forceful the exhale. This sets me up for the subsequent breathing pattern after diving in. When I'm ready I inhale then dive in and immediately exhale through the nose and stroke to my first inhale then immediately to spear (mail slot) and head down exhaling 'forcefully'. A few cycles of this and I'm on my way.
Next time give it a try and let me know how it worked. Practice the sequence and visualize.
Have fun. I'm in too and with the weather finally on the balmy side the water temps are hovering @ about 65F+, perfect. Incidentally, I completed my first 10K last year in 64F.
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  #3  
Old 05-31-2011
cynthiam cynthiam is offline
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I'm jealous of your warmer water! Mine's about 10 degrees cooler and not likely to get much warmer until September (probably topping out around 61 or so). But one can always hope.

I think AWP's suggestions are great. That breathing reflex is very common when first getting into colder water. It'll abate as the body gets used to the temperature -- it remembers and doesn't need to panic.

People have different ways of getting in cold water. For various reasons I can't just plunge in, so I do it in stages.

Wade in until water covers ankles. Stay there several seconds until feet get used to it. Keep going in up to top of shins. Bend over & splash water on thighs and hips. Go in up to mid-thigh. Splash water on arms & shoulders, face & back of neck. Go in to waist. Make sure you're breathing! Plunge in up to chin. Here I move my arms & legs very quickly for several seconds. Bob your head under a few times, exhaling when you're under. If I'm not gasping, I then breaststroke for a little while before switching to freestyle. If I'm gasping, I bob several more times.

This whole process takes me several minutes at the beginning of the season, and only a minute or two when I'm acclimatized. I didn't realize until I read AWP's post that I do a similar breathing exercise as I get in.

Sometimes it takes me a few minutes of stroking to get relaxed and breathe normally. Until then I breathe every 2, sometimes switching to breaststroke if my breathing hasn't settled.

One thing I've focused on this season is to really extend my very patient lead arm through the axilla (armpit), lengthening my whole body. It helps keep my head from coming up too much (still a habit I'm correcting) and gives me more time to breathe.
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Old 05-31-2011
naj naj is offline
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Both Cynthia and AWP have given you great advice. I don't need to add much but what I can say is that acclimation is everything. The more you keep coming back the easier it will be. Like Cynthia said, San Francisco doesn't rise above 61F in the warmest times and rarely then. However, I have been able to go as long as several hours in mid 50s to low 60s due to swimming year round in ow and acclimating. Sure I still get cold at first but that is usually my extremities my core however is always warm and that is the key. keep the core warm, the rest is a mental battle that can be overcome.

keep it up!
Naji
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  #5  
Old 05-31-2011
sasquatch sasquatch is offline
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Default cold showers

You don't have to keep the water cold for the entire duration of your shower, but turn the temp down as low as you can stand and practice your breathing. Just like getting in a cold lake or pool the initial shock is the worst. At first you may not be able to step directly into a cold stream of water all at once, so drop the temp gradually and work your way down to a cold "jump" in. You'll probably feel your chest tighten and the urge to inhale; when this happens put (and keep) your face in the cold stream and force yourself to do a nice long exhale in order to purge all the CO2 from your lungs. Then turn your face out of the water and get a good inhale of oxygen before putting your face back in while you exhale again. Keep it going until it your breathing feels relatively calm and natural. Remind yourself to exhale out your nose and inhale through your mouth as well.

Nice part about the shower is that you usually have control over the temperature. I think that feeling of control helps remove some of the panic that can set in when you first jump in a body of cold water. I usually take cold showers anyway, but even if the idea sounds crazy at first I think they are a great way to "comfortably" establish your breathing rhythm in cold water. Once you have it you'll be able to find when you hit the lake/river/ocean.
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Old 06-01-2011
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It all sound good, tough, but good. Something new to work on. The summer is a busy time for me, I will keep at the acclimation. My pool time has always been in the evenings. I may start a morning lake swim routine, it is calmer then, too. I suspect the water temps will not very from day time to morning either.

When I first started swimming I would practice breathing in the shower. I will have to test the water temp with my pool thermometer, see if I can set it for 60ish.

I will report back with how it goes during the next few weeks. I do find Visualization helpful in many aspects and practice with swimming as well, the breathing as entering the water I believe will be beneficial. I was experimenting with that yesterday but did not fully understand the benefits, clearer now.

Thanks for the input.
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Old 06-01-2011
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Don't bother with thermometer it wont make it wormer, just ever so often try touching your thumb with your little finger if you can't it's time to get out, I've heard the best way to get in is to get in first just for few seconds then get out for a minute or two and get back in but I couldn't force myself to do it this way. To be honest with you even when I'm getting into 84F pool I'm finding it cold until I fully submerge so solution is simple just get in and get it over with
Keep your sessions short at begging and gradually build up the time you spend in the water, that would be my advice

Irish sea 06/02 water temp around 45F air temp 40F:
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SB1NgTNwRP8

After few sessions where every part of my body was burning from cold when I get into the sea on last sunday after over a month break from OW swimming 53F water felt comfty, still a bit cold but I could finally enjoy it and focus a bit more on my technique rather then survival

So keep it up and you will get used to it
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Old 06-01-2011
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I hardly need to add anything to the advice given already. However Alan's technique of exhaling through his nose is interesting and I'll give it a try. That - or at least the need to do so to control the gasp reflex - may need to wait some months though.
I swam two consecutive days last week at 56F, 17 min the first day and 35 min the second. No sun either day, in fact the lake was heavily fogged in. But this week air temps are 30 degrees higher and it's sunny and I'll bet the lake temp has risen near 60, so I doubt I'll feel my breath quicken when I get in next.

My technique has been to focus on outbreaths as I wade in, using them to control the tendency to breathe faster. I wait at thigh depth until my breathing slows, then submerge my shoulders, wait again until I get my breathing rate under control, then push off and begin swimming. Many people start with high rate strokes, but I keep my strokes long and slow - and stay focused on outbreaths - because you can't breathe fast while stroking slowly.

Any discomfort I have passes in what seems like just a couple of minutes and within a few more minutes is succeeded by a feeling I can only describe as a blend of invigoration and exhilaration that has occurred in no circumstance other than swimming in water of 60F or below. This feeling becomes addictive and soon makes swimming in water 70 or warmer feel almost pallid by comparison. I feel envy for people like Naj who can swim in sub-60 temps in the SF Bay for a much longer period. Our water goes from 50 to 60 inside of about 3 weeks - and the same in reverse in October.

When I'm swimming in colder water it's time to get out when the exhilarating/invigorating feeling is replaced by a feeling of being chilled. I can literally feel that gradually penetrate fat layers.
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  #9  
Old 06-03-2011
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A couple of day latter.... cloudy(kind of like the picture above), a good wind, more waves... Colder water, the temp dropped 6 degrees, 58. We went in again while attempting to breath properly, in mouth out nose. That takes some concentration, I would keep finding I had it wrong and close my eyes and think through the process. Eventually we, my daughter and I, made it all the way in, we almost gave up but endured. It was worth it. Some have related the "warm" sensation, we felt that, 58 is noticeably cooler but it still has a tingling warmish sensation. I think you all have passed on good input.

I was able to get into a pattern of breast stroke and breath a somewhat comfortable stroke for a short distance, something the previous swim did not yield. I found that forcing the proper sequence as we gently progressed deeper helped, some quick bobs under the water forced the pattern and assisted with getting into the BS. It seems like a short time but it was on my lunch break, 12.5 minutes, don't laugh, it was really great.

I suspect the lack of sun and the added stiff wind mixed the water temps up causing the drop. We have not had much sun the past couple of days. I am glad we could experience the colder temp before it warmed more. Looking forward to a morning swimming with out the wind. No black flies was a bonus.
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  #10  
Old 07-09-2011
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Things have been good, swimming in various lakes through out the week. Going with a Masters group on weekend swims to exotic locations, like Spring River Lake. I am still keeping track of water temps, even though it does not make the water warmer. I find 70 degrees a comfortable temp and can swim for half an hour easily or for longer times. Temps in the 60's I keep my in water time to half an hour, 15 minutes one way and turn around and come back. The car heater feels real nice, with a clenched jaw.

Water temp today 75 degrees, I can almost relax and swim with a conscious mind paying attention to details I forgo when the temps are lower. Open water is wonderful, it is going to be hard to go back to the pool this fall.
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