This weeks we have some insight into winter swim training from Caroline Connor.
'The truth must be said, I don't always do as I am told but when it comes to all aspects of outdoor swimming, especially winter swimming then I always do as I am told!'
Once the summer season was over with the Loch Earn 10k+(!!) I had already decided that I was going to keep going throughout the winter. Yes, I did take a few weeks off but continued with my pool swimming and when the sessions at Pilmuir started again in October it was clear straight away how quickly the water temperature had dropped and the air temperature was cooler.
The first couple of weeks we were swimming in 10/11 degrees and I was swimming fairly comfortably for well over an hour. As the weeks went on the socks made an appearance followed by the gloves - I just can't bear my fingers being so cold!
That cold frosty spell of Arctic weather then caused the water to drop into 4 degrees and below and the weekend of 17th December the 3.1 degrees was the coldest I have ever swam in! I swam for 38 minutes and that was my limit, I couldn't have done another loop. The good thing about knowing that was my limit was because I 'listened' to what my body was telling me.
When I first enter the 'winter water' I go through a check list in my mind:
Where is the safety canoe ? Does the water feel icy cold? Have I got an 'ice cream' head? Is my breathing calm and relaxed - if not, sort it out Is my stroke regular and can I still carry on 'sighting'? Can I still feel my feet and hands? Does my head feel dizzy? Is my body tense and painful?
When it gets to the point of answering 'no' to more than 1 or 2 of the above then it's time to come out the water.
The cold water drains your body and mind so much quicker than the summer temperatures, with or without a wetsuit and it is so important to realise the dangers before it's too late.
I am using the winter swim sessions to keep myself acclimatized to the water, to discipline myself to make the decision to come out by myself rather than be told to come out of the water, to listen to what my head and body are telling me as I would never forgive myself if I stayed in that loop too much and I got into difficulty. I am not using them for stroke technique, speed or distance sessions though I do try to be one of the last to come out (it's one of the little goals I set myself each week!).
I have listened to Roberts lectures many times about the dangers of hypothermia and what the signs and symptoms are and I never ever want to suffer from it - Yes, I have been damn cold and the pain in my fingers after my coldest swim was ridiculously sore but knowing that it was just the blood flow returning to my fingers after having the tight gloves on would eventually pass is a comfort.
I think it's so important to have a buddy with you after any outdoor swim but especially in the winter. That person has to be someone who is able to help you undress and then get dressed asap - no chatting or faffing about - get out your wet suits straight away, get yourself dry and then pile on the layers, not forgetting a wooly hat and gloves and also to hear you moaning and silently screaming about how cold you are!! (I am genuinely sorry for telling you to hurry up and pull my suit off Grahame, honest).
Before I get into the water I always leave my layers in a pile in the boot of the car in sequence of what I will put on first - It does sound a bit OCD but I can assure you it makes getting dressed so much easier. Once you are dressed get moving , walking around, jogging on the spot and get a nice hot drink inside you - my favourite is hot Ribena! Usually after around 30-40 minutes I feel back to normal.
I usually feel really hungry after a winter swim and I aim to eat within 20 minutes of getting dressed - I always remember my hockey coach from the younger days telling us that was one of the most important things to do!
I can honestly say that I love winter swimming and love doing it with like minded people. It's not a natural everyday thing for most people to do and I guess that's why I enjoy pushing myself to doing something extreme. The amount of texts I get from my friends telling me how crazy I am each week is quite funny, but I would much rather be swimming than trailing round the shops! And anyway, I can't think of a nicer group of people to spend my Sunday mornings with than the swimmers from Team Vigour!
Pictures show - keeping warm pre and post swimming, exiting Pilmuir after the 3.1 degree swim! and Seamus our trusty kayaker.
Winter Swim Sessions
Winter swim session are at Pilmuir Quarry, on a Sunday morning, in the water for 10am.
Our first session of 2018 will be 7th January.
Total Immersion Swim Session
Swim Sessions will re-start on the 15th January 2018.