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  #1  
Old 10-15-2010
dobarton dobarton is offline
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dobarton
Default Ok, you OW swimmers are NUTS!

I have a small lake outside my home. I've been swimming laps at the gym for about a year and am comfortable in the water. Mile swim in a 25m pool is a pleasure. I don't do the OW thing, however... goose poop, alligator snapping turtles, water snakes... I just can't get motivated. Anyhow, I was at our lake last Saturday. The sky was clear, the sun was out, the water appeared clear. My buddy told me that his fish finder had the water temp at 72. So, I thought, what the heck... Got on my suit and goggles and got in. Timidly at first, but body didn't react too bad to the temp so I got all the way in.

OMG!!!! You people are crazy!!! The first thing I noticed on getting all the way in and putting my face in the water is that I FREAKED OUT! I suddenly desperately needed air and I couldn't figure out why! I could side stroke easily, I could float/flutter kick on my back fine, I could do a poor rendition of breast stroke fine, but as soon as the cold water hit my face, my chest constricted and I needed air! The furthest I could go with good form before giving up due to breathlessness was about 25 yards!!

What's up with that!!!! I don't particularly wish to learn OW swimming, but watching Terry in his lake in Minnesota (I think) just looks cool, so I thought I could look cool. Nope, I looked like I was drowning!
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  #2  
Old 10-15-2010
LennartLarsson LennartLarsson is offline
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Dobarton, don't give up yet. 72 F is not cold. If you give it some days, you will find that swimming in "cold" water is a great pleasure. Just relax and fokus on the swim and all of sudden you will find that you have been out there for 10 minutes, then 20 minutes and when you have done it for 45 minutes, you are one of us and you will love it!

Cheers!

Lennart
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  #3  
Old 10-15-2010
KatieK KatieK is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by dobarton View Post
I have a small lake outside my home. I've been swimming laps at the gym for about a year and am comfortable in the water. Mile swim in a 25m pool is a pleasure. I don't do the OW thing, however... goose poop, alligator snapping turtles, water snakes... I just can't get motivated. Anyhow, I was at our lake last Saturday. The sky was clear, the sun was out, the water appeared clear. My buddy told me that his fish finder had the water temp at 72. So, I thought, what the heck... Got on my suit and goggles and got in. Timidly at first, but body didn't react too bad to the temp so I got all the way in.

OMG!!!! You people are crazy!!! The first thing I noticed on getting all the way in and putting my face in the water is that I FREAKED OUT! I suddenly desperately needed air and I couldn't figure out why! I could side stroke easily, I could float/flutter kick on my back fine, I could do a poor rendition of breast stroke fine, but as soon as the cold water hit my face, my chest constricted and I needed air! The furthest I could go with good form before giving up due to breathlessness was about 25 yards!!

What's up with that!!!! I don't particularly wish to learn OW swimming, but watching Terry in his lake in Minnesota (I think) just looks cool, so I thought I could look cool. Nope, I looked like I was drowning!
Dobarton, thanks for posting. I think open water swimming *is* scary the first time. Also, any new experience in open water can be scary. That includes swimming thru a cold spot, touching driftwood, touching another person, difficulty sighting, etc.

Those fears can be tough, and they can inspire some bad thoughts. (Snakes and goose poop are examples of bad thoughts.) They usually only last a few seconds if you don't dwell on them.

Swimming in open water is SO fun once you get over the initial fear. It's pretty, there's no chlorine, and it feels so free to swim away from the shore. Plus, people always tell me and my buddies how completely awesome we are for swimming out there. And believe me, we don't necessarily swim like Terry.

I wish I could say I'm as tough as LennartLarsson, but I am definitely not. I'm used to swimming in really hot water (>90F in the summer, >80F in the winter). Right now, the lakes around here have cooled off to about 76F. I feel cold when I get in, but I warm up right away. Until I do warm up, I get thoughts like "I am definitely scratching from my race this weekend."

If you're tough like LennartLarsson, try it again in a day or two. It will not feel nearly as cold. If you're not so tough (I won't say like me because I am positive you are tougher than I am), try it when the lake warms up. If you like it, you'll be able to keep swimming into the fall because the drop in temperature will be gradual.
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  #4  
Old 10-16-2010
naj naj is offline
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naj
Default Cold Schmold!!!

Dobarton, what katieK mentioned is right on target. It is always a shock to your system when you first try open water swimming. Having never gone in before and not knowing what to expect must have doubled that sensation However, you can overcome the thoughts of aquatic life, and the cold by going back and staying in a bit longer; try five minutes longer than your last swim and just do what makes yo0u feel safe whether that be breaststroke or floating on your back. You can get a good feel for ow with front crawl but you need to get in about a minimum of three times per week. If the lake's temp is really beginning to drop, try in the late Spring or Summer of next year.

And hey I'm proud of you for getting in with the water in the 70s, though I must tell you that ain't cold try 47F with no wetsuit for 45 mins and lets talk cold ;-)

Keep Swimming!
Naji
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  #5  
Old 10-16-2010
cynthiam cynthiam is offline
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Default Nah, not so crazy

Dobarton, congrats on getting in and surviving!

I started in OW in June, and the first time in I hyperventilated for 15 minutes. I couldn't deepen or slow my breath...I tried, but couldn't. I was able to put my face in for all of about 1.5 seconds. The water was colder than what you were in, but if 72 feels cold to you you might have had a similar reaction. Cold water on the face can result in that reflexive gasping.

I have a "getting in" ritual that I've used every time. I slowly walk in until the water's about to my upper thighs. Splash some water on my arms & shoulders. Splash some on my neck. Finally, splash some on my face, including the bridge of my nose. Then I plunge in up to my neck and furiously scull my arms and sort of run in place (yes, I'm sure it's quite a sight!). Then I bob a few times to get my head under the water. After all of that, I breaststroke for a few strokes then switch to crawl. It works for me.

Sometimes still my face is cold and hurts at first, but I don't have that gasping anymore. It took some time to build up my tolerance and comfort level, so don't get discouraged. My body is not a roaring heat factory; I tend to be cold. So if I can do it in 56-61 degree water, I bet you can in warmer water (if you want to).
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  #6  
Old 10-16-2010
quad09 quad09 is offline
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dobarton i reall appreciate your honesty, i thought i was the only one. I live in the south and only lap swim. I was recently in Canada and lodged on a beautiful mountain lake. I had my speedo and goggles and said what the heck let's do this. The water wasn't that cold but man what a freaky swim. I lost my breathing reflex completely. The water was gin clear with a dark bottom and even though i knew nothing was going to get me i just froze up. 100 meters maybe and i was done. as a result i have gained a real appreciation for the the girls and guys who do this. Hats off!!
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  #7  
Old 10-16-2010
naj naj is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by quad09 View Post
dobarton i reall appreciate your honesty, i thought i was the only one. I live in the south and only lap swim. I was recently in Canada and lodged on a beautiful mountain lake. I had my speedo and goggles and said what the heck let's do this. The water wasn't that cold but man what a freaky swim. I lost my breathing reflex completely. The water was gin clear with a dark bottom and even though i knew nothing was going to get me i just froze up. 100 meters maybe and i was done. as a result i have gained a real appreciation for the the girls and guys who do this. Hats off!!
Quad09, what you felt is normal for anyone's first time in ow. I felt like my feet were on fire the first time I tired it. My advantage over you is that I had a great ow clinic from TI Coach Leslie Thomas here in San Francisco and knew what to expect. Yourself and dobarton - though very brave - had no one to let you know what might be in store for you upon your foray into ow. Give it a go again with a buddy who has experience in ow and can talk you through what your feeling it'll go a long way.

Swim strong, swim long!
Naji
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  #8  
Old 10-16-2010
KatieK KatieK is offline
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I did a 7K swim today in 76-degree water. I was thinking about you guys when I was out there.

I was FREEZING! I've been swimming at least once per week in the lake. Last week, I went 3 times (3-4K each time). But, I guess the temperatures are dropping faster than I can stay acclimated.

This event was broken down into 3 separate races: 1K, 2K, and 4K. My focus was to stay calm and keep a good stroke length. I wanted to swim the first 6K at a very relaxed pace.

I was cold getting in for the 1K, but not too bad. I felt "refreshed" during the 1K (not my favorite feeling). During the 2K, I felt chilled. I wasn't shivering, but my skin felt really cold when I got out. I was worried about getting even colder during the 4K and not being able to finish.

I picked up my pace on the 4K and went back to feeling "refreshed" instead of chilled. I swam the last 1K as fast I could. I got out of the water the last time feeling perfectly comfortable.

I suppose this will get easier as I learn how to regulate my pace better. Without the tempo trainer, I have a hard time with maintaining a moderately brisk pace. I can do "r-e-l-a-x-e-d" or "sprint" pretty easily, but my internal pace clock seems to be missing the middle gears.
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  #9  
Old 10-16-2010
terry terry is offline
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Dobarton and Quad

The 'freezing-up' experience both of you had - more from not having the familiar boundaries and transparency of a pool, than from temperature - are really the norm. I would guess most pool swimmers get something of that in their first venture into open water. My wife, Alice, did the first time she tried swimming in beautiful Lake Minnewaska (which is in New Paltz NY, not Minnesota, even though it sounds a bit like Minnetonka). It took her quite a while to calm/control that panicky feeling. For her what helped was wearing a wetsuit, which gave her a slightly greater feeling of security.

For most people I would suggest training yourself to focus on Stroke Thoughts. This is one of two reasons to practice Targeted-Mindful Swimming in the pool. Training the mind to hold one thought -- and block out others -- is just as challenging as training your muscles to move THIS way and not THAT way. And both involve creating new neural circuits, which is good for optimizing the adult brain. The other reason to practice Mindful Swimming is, of course, to improve your stroke fluency and efficiency. And that will allow you to swim farther in open water without fatigue.

Getting acclimated to cold is also an adaptive process. I've found it very interesting. My comfort zone used to be above 65. Now I've swum comfortably in 45F water without neoprene, though for 22 min not Naj's 45 min. I found the most helpful thing was - again - narrowing my focus.

When the water is below, say, 55, I focus for the first couple of minutes on exhale. I 'notice' the sting of the water on my skin, but my focus on exhaling does two things (1) Controls the tendency to hyperventilate; and (2) Keeps me at arms-length from the observation that the water feels cold on my skin (and sometimes to the point of an 'ice cream headache.'

After a few minutes the initial discomfort passes and is replaced by an exhilarating contrast between the cold outside me and an incredible sense of warmth inside. It's just normal body heat of 98.6F but until you are submerged in water that's 40 degrees cooler you never notice it. Once you get to this, you feel you can swim indefinitely.

It truly is life-changing, but few people ever experience it because they're overcome by the initial shock, before getting to that point.

I have a chapter describing how to train yourself to create each of these adaptations (as well as a chapter on how to recognize and avoid hypothermia when swimming in cold water) in my ebook Outside the Box.
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  #10  
Old 10-28-2010
DavidBarra DavidBarra is offline
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it would be dishonest for me to make the claim that i've always been comfortable in cool water, but knowing people who were extending their outdoor swim season into the winter months inspired me to work on expanding my own comfort range.

to qualify for the MIMS race in 2006, terry and i swam 4 hours in lake minnewaska on sept 30, 2005. the water was 62 degrees. i survived, and in the years since have challenged myself (in the company of terry, willie miller and a fanatical group of "coldies" from CIBBOWS) to increase the amount of exposure that i feel comfortable with.

it is a mentally challenging task to accept the chill as an exterior distraction while at the same time focusing on an internal comfort. i am happy to say that just this past weekend i swam an event in the HY harbor... the ederle swim.

the temperature range was 55-56 and it took me 5hrs 37mins.

http://forums.usms.org/blog.php?b=12110
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