This article is from our colleague Bryn Dymott at Selkie Swim which we though was particularly relevant at this time of year.
For many open water swimming is a summer activity. Some swimmers talk about the season, often linking this to a triathlon schedule of swimming from April to late September. Increasingly swimmers are challenging and changing the definition of the season.
My open water season lasts 12 months of the year and has done since 2010, initially supported by a wetsuit, but for the last 4 years I swim in togs also known as skins.
Our cool water season starts once the water temperatures fall into single figures, with Ice swimming recognised at water temperatures of 5C and below. This is the water temperature at which an Ice Mile can be swum and for the payment of a fee and production of various documents including an ECG and Doctors letter confirming ones’ health is robust enough to take on the challenge, the IISA will recognise your achievement. Currently there are just 181 swimmers recognised by the IISA as Ice Milers. I am proud to be number 126 and the first British breaststroke Ice Miler.
So how to get started?
Acclimatisation is the key to cool water and Ice swimming. Regular dips and swims in a safety aware setting is how and where to get started. The following lists some key factors to consider: –
The ideal time to continue swimming and start to acclimatise is now, especially if now happens to be towards the end of the summer. To start in December takes some courage and an “I want to” attitude.
Wear appropriate swimwear. In your first year a wetsuit may be preferred but the regular cool water swimmers and competitors at the winter swimming events like Chillswim, PHiSH, IISA, Chilled to be Thrilled, CWSC etc. are almost exclusively non wetsuit swims. I always wear and recommend a silicon swim hat and ear plugs for all winter dippers.
Swim in company (whenever possible) and know where you can easily leave the water, before you get in.
Learn your limits and recognise hypothermia. A great safety rule of thumb, especially when new to cool water swimming, is once the cold-water shock* subsides then be sure to exit promptly if shivering in the water starts.
NB – post swim shivering is good, demonstrating that your body is in control. The shivering is your bodies way of helping you to warm up an wastes a lot of calories, so once dressed feed the shivers. Lots of layers, especially a thermal/merino base layer, a down filled jacket and/or Dry Robe top layer and hats and gloves complete the post swim outfit. (Winter swimming is rarely glamorous – the exceptions know who they are).
Get In determinedly, no faffing (any hesitation just lets the cold in quicker). There is no need to jump or dive but make good steady progress and start to swim within your depth so that you can stand up if you need to.
* Cold-water shock causes hyperventilation and is identified by the RLSS and RNLI as a killer when people accidentally fall into cool water. We choose to go in and should only swim out of our depth once breathing is under control. For new swimmers, just a few minutes is ideal.
Always leave the water smiling and knowing that you could have swum longer if you had needed to. Within 5-10 minutes a cold water swimmer will suffer Afterdrop and the post afterdrop endorphin rush (endolphins I like to call it) will stay with you for hours.
Finally, for now, do not have a warm shower or a bath until after you have fully recovered from any hypothermia or shivering that followed your swim. Even experienced swimmers after short swims have felt very unwell taking a hot shower after a cool plunge.
We will be starting back this Sunday at 10am at Bardowie Loch.
Total Immersion Workshop
If you can swim continuously for 50 metres or more and would like to work on increased efficiency and speed then our One Day Fishlike Freestyle Workshops will set you on the path to achieving these goals. They are held in various locations throughout the UK and are the first choice not only for experienced triathletes and open water swimmers but also for those who are preparing for their first experience of the sport or who want to swim for fitness and fun.
Our workshops in November were a fantastic success, our next workshop will be the 14th January 2017.
Monday's sessions are proving to be very popular, so come along and join us.
The sessions will start back on the 9th January 2017.
The coaching session will be taken by Robert Hamilton and will be a great opportunity to improve your technique and fitness to give you a head start for the 2017 Open Water Season.
Robert will bring his experience as a Total Immersion Coach plus his coaching experience which has included coaching swimmers to Olympic Trial level to provide interesting and challenging swim sessions. For more information click here.