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  #1  
Old 06-15-2016
s.sciame s.sciame is offline
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s.sciame
Default water temperatures

Hi all, I'm impressed by how many swimmers here (mostly located in the US I suppose) seem to easily deal with cold water without any specific training and I was wondering what water temperatures you typically have in your pools (and also seas and lakes).

I live in Italy and standard pools here are in the 27-29C (80-84F) range. It's pretty hard to find a pool where water temperature is 25C (77F), which is considered the best temperature to race.
Moreover the sea temperature never gets under 12C (53.6F) during the winter and, by the time the open water season begins, it's mostly 20C (68F) or above everywhere. Winter is pretty warm as well, air temperature hardly ever gets to 0C (32F).
In short, we're not used to cold at all, and some people think I'm crazy just because I take cold showers on regular basis. I'd like to extend my open water season and I don't like wetsuits, that's why I'm trying to adapt. But here I read of swimmers who quickly get to swim one hour at 55F w/o wetsuit and I'm so far from this (I have to say that I'm pretty lean as well).

So I'm curious to know some numbers from you.
Thanks in advance,
Salvo
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  #2  
Old 06-15-2016
Danny Danny is offline
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Hi Salvo, I'm not a cold water swimmer, but I do get confronted with the issue on a regular basis, so I'll throw in some anecdotal information on this subject.

First, there are two factors at play here: water temperature and air temperature. The outdoor 50 m pool I swim in just outside of Munich, when I am on vacation, opens its season sometime in late April or early May. The pool is supposedly heated to 23 C, but in years past it was much colder than this. The Germans seem to be a pretty hardy folk and I would see, not only tri-athletes and competitive swimmers, but also old folk who do a slow breast stroke up and down the pool in conditions where I started experiencing hypothermia after about 30 minutes of swimming continuous laps. The worst part of this for me was the walk (about 150 m) from the pool to the shower after I got out. Somehow this year I finally figured out that I should go right up to pool side in warm clothing and, when I get out, I should immediately dry off and put on warm clothing for the walk back to the showers. Makes a really big difference.

I ask some of these people how they manage to deal with it and the Germans seem to like to appeal to cultural explanations for this stuff. They claim the people in northern Europe are more used to cold water (including the English) and they take it in stride. The mediterranean folk, according to this explanation just aren't used to it. I'm not mediterranean but I am skinny, but who knows? 55-60 F is too cold for me, and I won't last long in it.
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  #3  
Old 06-16-2016
dougalt dougalt is offline
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Salvo,

Cold water swimming is something I've recently come to enjoy dealing with, as a frontier that could be explored late in my life (early 70's), when physical/medical limitations preclude other avenues of outer-limits challenges.

I'm as surprised as the folks who know me that it IS possible to swim in very cold water. During the past 4 years I have swum in the Atlantic Ocean several times in most winter months, here at the New Jersey coast, managing to swim 1/2 mile in 54º water on one occasion (12/4/15), and 1/4 mile in 44º water on another (11/25/13). Although I have missed a couple of months here and there, due to injuries, illness or rough surf conditions, I have done many shorter cold swims, including 150 yards in 35º water on both February 23rd and 24th in 2014.

No wet suit. Just a thinly insulated cap. (I'm basically bald, so I have no natural insulation factor that younger swimmers get with having hair between their head and the cap.)

How do I do it? Mostly, I follow Terry's philosophy about concentrating on swimming thoughts during every stroke, rather than letting my mind be distracted by thinking about the temperatures...

As fascinating as the cold water swimming is, I don't sprint for the towels and warm clothing right after coming out of the water - rather, I actually enjoy walking 1/4 to 1/2 mile along the beach in the winter breezes to dry off first. And, I like the air temperature in the upper twenties much better for this than in the mid-30's. I am conjecturing that the air below 32º loses most of its moisture and is more comfortable than the just-over-freezing moisture-laden air.

One reason for pursuing all this is that the ocean is often very calm, sometimes even as flat as a lake, during the winter months here when the prevailing winds come from the West or North-west and blow the waves out to sea. Which means... one can swim smoothly and safely in chest deep water along the shore if desired, rather than having to go way out beyond the breakers.

Winter swimming at Loch Arbour, NJ - cold, but CALM AND SMOOTH!

However, sometimes the water has defeated me - twice this March, just a few days after having done some successful short swims, I tried to go into approximately 50º water: my legs screamed with pain - I could NOT force myself into the water. This happened 2 days in a row. I have yet to figure out what was going on with my physical and/or mental status on those two particular days when my body "just said NO".
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Old 06-16-2016
s.sciame s.sciame is offline
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s.sciame
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Thanks Danny and Dougalt for your reports, much appreciated.

Dougalt, what you tell is not only unbelievable, but so fascinating too! I can imagine that cold but calm shore an the ocean all for you, it has to be wonderful.

One more question(s): aside from those 2 bad days, never had any hypothermia or after-drop issues? And how much time to re-establish your normal body temperature after a swim in such cold (ice) water?

By the way, I'm pretty sure you already know this great blog that I'd like to share with everyone interested in cold water swimming:

https://loneswimmer.com/

Best regards,
Salvo
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  #5  
Old 06-16-2016
dougalt dougalt is offline
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Salvo,

Thanks for the link to the loneswimmer.com website. (I had never heard about it before) It's very clear that I am just a mere dabbler with this cold water stuff...

I haven't attempted to document how long it has taken for me to warm up after various temperature and duration swims. I just know that sometimes various parts of my body surface can be cold to the touch several hours afterwards.

In contrast, the glow and stimulation from a good cold swim can last for a day or two. I feel that there must be some beneficial effect to one's health, such as immune system stimulation, or something.

"Loneswimmer" describes a lot of the post-swim benefits quite eloquently.

Some things I thought of after posting my thoughts yesterday:
I don't go into the water with a pre-set distance in my mind; I just swim as much as feels "enough" on that particular day. I carefully observe landmarks at my turn-around points, and then measure my distance by using Google Earth after I get home.
Also, I never measure the water temperature BEFORE swimming - I really DON'T WANT TO KNOW what the numbers are in advance. AFTER each swim, I get my thermometer out of my swim bag and go back into chest-deep water to take a reading.

Although most of my swims in the really cold water are fairly short, I have to admit that the challenge of The Ice Mile is starting to gnaw on me....
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  #6  
Old 06-17-2016
ti97
 
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Doug, i haven't swum cold water for a long time but reading this brings some memories.

One is that I had to force myself (at least at the start) to exhale. Once relaxed, my breathing became more natural.

I agree that there must be some health benefit to cold water swimming. I remember the intense relaxing sleep afterward.
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  #7  
Old 06-17-2016
Danny Danny is offline
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There is an old saying that what doesn't kill you just makes you stronger.
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  #8  
Old 06-17-2016
sclim sclim is offline
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I'm reading this in fascination. I'm a struggling learner, getting better, but I HATE cold water. My first real open water tri was and Olympic distance in glacier fed Two Jack Lake in Banff National Park; wet suit, but overwhelming for a fledgeling swimmer. I thought I nearly died. I was the last out of the water at 46 minutes actually there was one guy after me but he was pulled into the medical tent with hypothermia -- why I didn't get hypothermia myself is beyond me -- I'm really skinny.

I've improved my swimming since, but I still hate cold water, and I think I would be too distracted training in cold water to be of much usefulness.

My latest challenge is a cracked or badly bruised rib 2 weeks ago. I find the pain so distracting that it's hard to get any good well focussed technique practice for long. But I'm sure I would find the cold even more distracting -- I find it difficult how you guys can focus on technique when your body is hurting from the cold.
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  #9  
Old 06-17-2016
ti97
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sclim View Post

My latest challenge is a cracked or badly bruised rib 2 weeks ago. I find the pain so distracting that it's hard to get any good well focussed technique practice for long. But I'm sure I would find the cold even more distracting -- I find it difficult how you guys can focus on technique when your body is hurting from the cold.
I had a cracked rib and it was almost as bad as a broken collar bone so I can imagine that swimming is nearly impossible.

But cold water swimming is not painful to me anyhow. Maybe the best description is that it is numbing. The part of my body most susceptible to cold is the back of my neck and the back of my shoulders. Also, after a long while, if my mastoids get cold that will definitely end it.

As I recall, a tight wrap around the rib cage seemed to offer some relief during the healing.....no fun!
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  #10  
Old 06-18-2016
sclim sclim is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by ti97 View Post
I had a cracked rib and it was almost as bad as a broken collar bone so I can imagine that swimming is nearly impossible.

But cold water swimming is not painful to me anyhow. Maybe the best description is that it is numbing. The part of my body most susceptible to cold is the back of my neck and the back of my shoulders. Also, after a long while, if my mastoids get cold that will definitely end it.

As I recall, a tight wrap around the rib cage seemed to offer some relief during the healing.....no fun!
An idea I had was that the limitation in stroke pull strength would force me to concentrate on postural efficiency rather than brute force to get speed and stroke length, so this could be used as a training aid. But even some trunk adjustments for postural efficiency hurt, and I may be unconsciously practicing inefficient posture due to the pain. (Stretching out long and tall I find particularly painful). I can go for a quite few 100m before I can't concentrate enough to make continuing worthwhile.
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