Open water swimming is an adventure, a journey that allows you to push your body past its’ limitations. It is invigorating but it can be somewhat of a challenge. The initial shock upon entering into the cold water can be torturous, especially if you aren’t accustomed to it. If you are considering taking part in an open-water event or have already signed up for one, it is imperative to your race performance that you prepare beforehand. Begin training in some nice, cold water and besides, we are here to tell you how to do it.
Swimming in cold water can cause the body to lose heat up to 70 times greater than heat lost in air of equal temperature. This seems rather daunting but don’t be put off. The body can adapt to a variety of circumstances and will get you through it just fine – interestingly, experienced swimmers can even detect day to day changes in pool temperatures by the slightest degree.
Scientists have determined there are three adaptive stages to cold-water acclimatisation:
1.Cold Habituation- where the body desensitises itself against its normal response to cold water as a stressor and as a result it no longer feels cold. It may even feel slightly warm to you.
2.Metabolic Acclimatisation- this is when changes to the metabolism occur that affects the type of nutrient used for body heat production. When this stage occurs the body does not burn through stored glycogen at an accelerated rate (like it normally would).
3. Insulative Acclimatisation- when wetsuits are allowed at your open water event, they help to change the blood flow to the skin and help to maintain core temperature that ultimately reduces the body’s stress response.
Before swimming in open water you must adapt your body to improve performance and tolerate colder temperatures. One of the best ways to do so is to begin taking cold baths or showers for at least three times a week. You don’t need to worry about this. The Romans began taking cold baths in the first century B.C, as they believed it had restorative health properties. In this century it has been suggested that immersing yourself in cold water can even boost the immune system.
To supplement the cold bath routine, join an open water-swimming club like Vigour Events and begin training in the open water. If you do this in the lead up to your event you will feel a lot more confident and relaxed in the water. By training regularly you will develop the ability to stay longer in the water and repeated exposure allows you to develop acclimatisation.
If you need any further advice please give us a call on 0333 5777946.