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  #1  
Old 12-03-2013
wolane wolane is offline
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Default How to do skill-improvement sessions in cold water?

Over the years I have had a variety of health issues from swimming in indoor pools such as skin infections and sinus infections and chlorine allergy and so on, and it has bothered me to a point that I decided to swim outdoor exclusively. (Luckily for me, I have access to an outdoor pool that is open year-round.) The problem is, in the freezing water of the wintertime, I find it impossible to slow down, do drills and work on my form. I find that I have to swim above certain tempo, depending on the water temperature on a given day, or I start shivering and lose all ability to focus on any part of my stroke.

As someone still having many stroke flaws, I find that doing all higher-tempo (for me) work, combined with the tensing effect of the cold water, gradually but surely deteriorates my form. I was hoping that swimming regularly in cold water would let my body adapt to the extent where I could feel relaxed and comfortable, but after one winter (this is the second one) it just hasn't happened.

Does anyone have similar experience? Could anyone advice on how to practice effectively in this situation?

Thanks in advance for your help.
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  #2  
Old 12-03-2013
wetbivybag wetbivybag is offline
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I still swim in the sea over the winter (I live in Ireland). It is quite cold but I use a wetsuit (3mm). It is different buoyancy to swimming in the pool but this is just the payoff for swimming free in the sea. Once you get going it lets you can swim normally. I'm not sure if they would allow you to swim with a wetsuit. Perhaps even a 3/4 length version.
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Old 12-04-2013
wolane wolane is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wetbivybag View Post
I still swim in the sea over the winter (I live in Ireland). It is quite cold but I use a wetsuit (3mm). It is different buoyancy to swimming in the pool but this is just the payoff for swimming free in the sea. Once you get going it lets you can swim normally. I'm not sure if they would allow you to swim with a wetsuit. Perhaps even a 3/4 length version.
I also enjoy open-water swimming, which I do on weekends. On those swims I just let myself fully immerse in the freedom of open water without paying much attention to speed, form, etc. On weekdays, though, I find that I need to have more skill-oriented practices to improve, which gets impossible for me to do in the winter.

I have never tried a wetsuit. I have stayed away from it as I think the added buoyancy would mask problems with balance. Would it be possible to improve balance by practicing in a wetsuit?
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Old 12-04-2013
dougalt dougalt is offline
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The challenge of avoiding wetsuit use is an intriguing one, and worth the pursuit. This is the beginning of my third winter of ocean swimming, without wetsuit, which I prefer greatly over the confinement of the 25-yard indoor "box".

My suggestion is to concentrate on RELAXING your way into the water, and let your body do its temperature adjustment "thing" on its own, without resorting to increased physical exertion as a method of "generating heat".

Concentrate on your "stroke thoughts" completely, and let the temperature issues fade to the background.

Not that the low temperature effects will be negated - eventually enough heat will be drawn out of your body that you need to get out of there!

Water temp this week here in New Jersey is down to the low 40's, and I was able to swim 1/4 mile nicely a few days ago, enjoying working on my stroke the whole way. This is certainly not a 5-mile swim or anything, but for me, it is a good accomplishment.

My coldest swim so far was this past April in Minnesota: 37º water temp. Had to wait a couple of days for the ice cover to melt from the St. Croix river. Only went 150 yards, but... Hey! I didn't see anyone else swimming that day!

BIG FACTOR for me is the use of a Barracuda insulated swim cap. Since I am nearly totally bald, with NO insulating hair layer under a normal swim cap, this has made a night and day difference for me being able to tolerate colder water. Without it, I get "brain freeze" in a minute or two.

Last edited by dougalt : 12-04-2013 at 02:40 PM.
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Old 12-04-2013
wetbivybag wetbivybag is offline
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Wow! If I had a Barracuda Swim Cap I'd take it off to you! Makes me feel a bit of a wimp :)

Quote:
Originally Posted by dougalt View Post
The challenge of avoiding wetsuit use is an intriguing one, and worth the pursuit. This is the beginning of my third winter of ocean swimming, without wetsuit, which I prefer greatly over the confinement of the 25-yard indoor "box".

My suggestion is to concentrate on RELAXING your way into the water, and let your body do its temperature adjustment "thing" on its own, without resorting to increased physical exertion as a method of "generating heat".

Concentrate on your "stroke thoughts" completely, and let the temperature issues fade to the background.

Not that the low temperature effects will be negated - eventually enough heat will be drawn out of your body that you need to get out of there!

Water temp this week here in New Jersey is down to the low 40's, and I was able to swim 1/4 mile nicely a few days ago, enjoying working on my stroke the whole way. This is certainly not a 5-mile swim or anything, but for me, it is a good accomplishment.

My coldest swim so far was this past April in Minnesota: 37º water temp. Had to wait a couple of days for the ice cover to melt from the St. Croix river. Only went 150 yards, but... Hey! I didn't see anyone else swimming that day!

BIG FACTOR for me is the use of a Barracuda insulated swim cap. Since I am nearly totally bald, with NO insulating hair layer under a normal swim cap, this has made a night and day difference for me being able to tolerate colder water. Without it, I get "brain freeze" in a minute or two.
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  #6  
Old 12-04-2013
Danny Danny is offline
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I am in awe of you guys! I am skinny and old and sometimes in summer I swim in a pool that (supposedly) is heated but can get down to 20 or 21C. When the air temp is also 12 C or so, I get to the point where my muscles aren't responding any more to the commands I am giving them. Then I know it is time to get out. The thing is, it stops being fun a long time before I reach this point. But maybe you get used to it over time?
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  #7  
Old 12-05-2013
wolane wolane is offline
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Thanks a lot, Dougalt. Your insight is very helpful. The main point I take away from your post is this:
The key to have effective practice in cold water is to accept the fact that the number of repetitions (or distance, time etc.) one can afford to do is limited, so one should be extra mindful in those limited number of repetitions to make the most out of them.

I now see that I was being too obsessive about getting a large number of repetitions. It is easy to forget that a few done well is better than a lot done wrong.

Also, an insulated swim cap sounds promising. I will give it a try. Thanks again!
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  #8  
Old 01-06-2014
Talvi Talvi is offline
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I found that I didn't shiver but that I had lost my balance when I got out. It reminded me of a time I came close to hypothermia swimming out into the bay in Jersey. It prompted me to take a thermometer with me to see what was happening. I found that my temperature dropped to about 34.4'C. Swimming in a pool and getting cold is one thing but in open water it maybe best to get some good feedback on how it's affecting you if you're in any doubt.
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