Sunday, April 3, 2011

Cold Weather Swimming Tips

As triathletes, we know all too well that optimal conditions rarely line up on race day. Consequently, training in adverse conditions is not only great for our physical preparation but also excellent for our mental training.

As a skier, I like to compare swimming in cold water to skiing in bad weather: suboptimal conditions do not necessarily mean there is no fun or benefit to be had.

Following a few simple guidelines can turn cold water swimming into a great experience.

It generally feels colder before and after, rather than during the swim.

  • Ensure a thorough warm-up and stretching, before getting into your wetsuit.
  • Set up the changing area the way you would set up your race transition: towel, warm clothes, water, energy foods. Indoor change rooms are ideal.

Wear proper equipment with a focus on heat retention.

  • Wetsuits are the primary piece of equipment here. Thicker wetsuits will improve buoyancy and heat retention although it might constrain arm movement.
  • Because we lose a significant about of heat through our head, neoprene swim caps and ear plugs are a must.
  • Swimming goggles will fog up more often as the difference between body and water temperature increases. Anti-fog solutions will help keep them fog-free and keep you focused on your stroke.
  • For those of us with “cold” extremities, neoprene swimming gloves and socks are a great way to keep our hands and feet from numbness and reduced performance.

Other recommendations.
  • Stay close to shore.
  • Focus on breathing, as our lungs shrink in colder temperatures.
  • Do not swim alone: have someone watch you from shore or better yet: have them swim with you!

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