On Sunday morning, I participated in an open water swim practice. I have friends who were actually racing that day, so I can’t complain too much, but man it was cold! The temperatures were in the 50’s and it was raining. I have no idea how warm the water was. Upper 60’s maybe? I didn’t ask because I didn’t want to know.
One of the local pools offers this triathlon swim clinic every year. It’s a good chance to get into cold water early in the triathlon season. Both last year and this year, it was the first time I wore my wetsuit. While I don’t mind my wetsuit, the first swim in it is always a bit rough because everything just feels weird. It didn’t feel as awful this year, though, and I’m not sure if it’s because I’m used to it or because I’ve lost ten pounds since I last wore it. Probably the latter.
Swimming in cold water is refreshing, but it’s not always fun. So here are some tips I’ve learned about cold water swimming.
First off, if I just get into the water and try to start swimming, I start to hyperventilate. My body is freaking out because of the cold and I just start gasping for air. The sensation passes as I warm up, but if I don’t have a chance to acclimate to the cold water before swimming, I just end up having to breast stroke for a bit until I can catch my breath and keep going. Whatever happens, just remember that the sensation passes.
The best solution is to do some bobs in the water before the swimming starts. Up and down, submerging your whole body so you can get used to the temperatures.
Another fun solution is to try to splash yourself with some cold water before you get in. Ice water in the face and down into the wetsuit. It’s also fun to watch, according to other people.
Last year at this particular clinic, I learned that cold water in your ears while swimming can cause vertigo issues. Not for everyone, but definitely for me. Solution? Ear plugs. I don’t use anything fancy, just the clearish wax ones you can buy for cheap. That way, when I lose them in transition, it’s no big loss. Also, if they start to bug me while I swim, goodbye ear plugs.
Wetsuits are awesome, but only if they fit you properly. A too small wetsuit is no good for anyone. Well, I’m sure some people are comfortable feeling like they’re being eaten by a boa constrictor, but for many people, a wetsuit that’s a teensy bit too big is better than one that is too small. But don’t judge your wetsuit until you’re actually in water with it. They stretch out a tiny bit when they get water in them. And the added floatyness is incredible. My coach calls wetsuits “free speed,” but only if you can swim comfortably in yours.
There are a lot of other tips out there, but this is what works for me. Swimming is frequently just mind over matter. Get in that cold water and just swim. What tips have you tried that worked or didn’t work?