Swimming in Cold Water; Early Season Open Water Swimming

With COVID-19 restriction going from counting from weeks into months, triathletes and swimmers are itching to get back into the water. People have come up with creative ways to accomplish this, garage pools with tethering systems, dryland routines with cordz or vasa trainers or just some good old fashioned strength training. As the weather starts to warm up another option is becoming available in parts of Canada, swimming in the ocean or lakes! My personal favorite time of the year is the first open water swim where you don’t get an ice cream headache from the cold water. 

Unfortunately, water temperatures are still very cold and will be for a while in some parts of the country. With that in mind here are some of my favorite cold water swimming tips. 

    1. Have a warm drink in the car for a post swim warm up. 
    2. Wrap a towel around a hot water bottle, so when you get to the car you have a warm dry towel. 
    3. Have a sweater and toque/mitts in the car for after you dry off. 
    4. Wear at a minimum a wetsuit, and cap. But you can add other pieces to increase your chance of staying warm. 
      1. Neoprene cap (double cap)
      2. Ear Plugs 
      3. Gloves 
      4. Booties 
      5. Extra 1 mm or 2 mm of neoprene on the chest (dive stores usually carry these)
  • Swim with a buddy! 
  • Swim with a floatation device 
    1. Take your time getting into the water, this will acclimatise your body and avoid the cold shock response. 
    2. Don’t panic, the first few breaths will feel tight, and the body will want to stop swimming quite quickly after you start to swim. Go slow and focus on the relaxation. 
    3. Don’t swim for length or time goals when the water is cold, swim until you are feeling ready to get out of the water. The worst thing you can do is say my goal is to swim for 1 hour, when the water is much too cold for you to be successful in that goal without endangering yourself. 

    One of the best sources of information out there is from Heather Massey, whom Swim Focused has no relationship with, we just like to share great material. Check out her articles on swimming in cold water here and here

    Wishing everyone a fantastic open water swim season!