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Old 07-01-2010
old man old man is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 7
old man
Default Freezing COLD, even in a wetsuit!

Advice please...

Hello there, I plan on completing an open water swim at the end of next month (July 2010), and I'm hoping someone can give me advice?
The swim will take place in Broadbay, Isle of Lewis, Outer Hebrides (Scotland). The distance is roughly 4 miles as the crow flies, and the water temperature is pretty cold (12-13 Celsius, which is approx. 53 - 55 Fahrenheit), but I'll be wearing a wetsuit.
There'll be 3 of us (hopefully) making the swim, and we'll have 2 or 3 support craft - 2 motorised vessels, and a paddle-board.
My main concern isn't the actual distance (although I've never swam any further than 2 miles, which I just completed this morning), it's keeping warm - I felt hyperthermic when I completed the 2 miles!
One of the group (a more experienced swimmer than me) tells me to increase my stroke-rate. However, since following the Total Immersion approach ALL my training (for the last 2 seasons - swimming's a winter, pool hobby for me) has been geared toward mindful practice, energy conservation, relaxation, etc., etc.
I'm pretty sure I wouldn't last 5 minutes if I jump in and start churning away like a whirling dervish.
I realise that just because I'm practicing TI doesn't necessarily mean I have to swim slowly, and I don't think I'm swimming excessively slow, but I'm pretty sure (at this late stage in the game), I can't just increase my stroke-rate over such a distance - I don't consider my technique good enough to start thinking about stroke-rate 'gears' just yet.
Any suggestions greatly appreciated?
thanks in advance
I've eaten breakfast this morning (rather than just fruit juice) to see if that makes any difference. I'm also going to wear gloves & neoprene socks?
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Old 07-01-2010
CoachEricDeSanto CoachEricDeSanto is offline
TI Coach
Join Date: Jul 2008
Posts: 384

Old Man,
First congrats on the challenge and good luck.

As for cold, you mentioned the wet suit. Are you sure it fits correctly? If it is loose anywhere, that will decrease its effect. Are you wearing a neoprene cap? That is the most important part for warmth.

I am relatively new to cold water swimming, but the stroke rate idea does fit with a few things I have heard. Coach Dave has said that his mile stroke rate and his English channel stroke rate were pretty close (and he swam a mile sub 17 minutes). He said he had to keep his rate high, at the slight expense of efficiency to keep warm. I am not saying give up on efficiency. But swimming at the high end of your range, allowing small slips in the pressure on the catch may allow you to warm up more.

Changing the kick can help you stay warm. In cold swims that I have done, I often swim two beat kick for 2-3 minutes, then 6 beat kick for 2-3 minutes. The extra kick uses more energy, but generates heat.

I have heard that many cold water swimmers plan to put on several pounds of fat weight to insulate them from the cold. They then have a plan to shed the extra kilograms after the swim.

would you have fueling stops in a 4 mile swim. It is common for the boat crew to have hot tea available to warm you from the inside, but I don't think 4 miles would be long enough for that.

Finally, Naj posted on the 10% solution. Start where you are comfortable and add 10% to your time in the water each week. It doesn't sound like useful to go from 1 hour to 1hour and 6 minutes. But the slow addition of time worked for him. You mentioned that you have a short amount of time, but you may be able to modify this some so that you get close to your expected swim time in the time you have left.

good luck.
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Old 07-01-2010
naj naj is offline
Senior Member
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: San Francisco, CA
Posts: 624

Old Man,

To further add to what Coach Eric has told you, I would also suggest earplugs to keep the cold water out which can get you cold faster and lead to disorientation in some folks. Remember that a lot of cold water swimming also involves a huge mental battle. I'll bet your toes and fingers felt like they were going to fall off huh? Well that is perfectly normal because your blood is going to your core to protect the vital organs (i.e. heart, liver, lungs etc). If your core is warm then keep swimming!

The 10% rule does work and gives you confidence. A four mile swim can be done and you can do it. You have lots of coverage and just feed on liquids that are warm and that work for you. Don't use this swim to experiment with your feeding have that worked out long beforehand.

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Old 07-02-2010
old man old man is offline
Junior Member
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 7
old man
Default thanks fellas

Thanks chaps for the advice and the words of encouragement.

What drinks do you suggest I try? And how do I go about it on the beach (while training)? I suppose I could leave a flask on the shore, and come in every (how long?) for a drink. Does that sound plausible?

I am wearing a hat, in fact 2 - a swim cap & a neoprene beanie. And I'm wearing ear-plugs. My wetsuit honestly looks as if its been painted on, it's way different to my kitesurfing wetty.
And yes, you're right, my hands and feet get absolutely freezing.

I'm pretty sure I can go the distance (if the cold was taken out of the equation), but not if I start messing around with my somewhat shakey technique. However, I appreciate what you're saying; I may not have a choice! If I don't generate more heat I could well be snookered!

I borrowed (and adapted) my training schedule from a running site(?), and it looks along the lines of...
1st wk: 1st sesh: 2miles, 2nd sesh: 1miles, 3rd sesh: 2.5miles
2nd wk: 1st sesh 2.5miles, 2nd sesh: 1.5miles, 3rd sesh: 3miles, & so on, for the next four weeks. In fact I should've actually completed the distance by the end of the 4th week.
I realise some of those jumps are pretty large (compared to the 6% you mentioned Naj), but the beach where I'm training is 0.25 miles long, making a lap 1/2 mile.

Piling on the beef sounds like a great idea - think I'll go for that! In fact, stuff the swimming, I'll just eat myself into condition!
Thanks again fellas, for all the advice.

Last edited by old man : 07-03-2010 at 04:49 PM.
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