It's that time of year again! Race season has begun and all around the country swimmers are getting ready to take the plunge into the open water, which may mean cold water. Here are my tips for cold water entry.
#1. Don't talk about it!
This tip sounds silly, but it's so important. I did much of my English Channel training at Coney Island, NY. I was often asked by other swimmers, “What is the water temp today?” I’d answer, “65 and beautiful!” Tongue in cheek, this was not an accurate response. Typically in May the water temperature is in the low 50's but I wanted to create ideal conditions in my mind no matter how cold it was. The point is what good would come from discussing the cold water. If you think it's going to be cold you have already lowered your body temperature before stepping foot into the water. Know that you will warm up after some swimming and place your focus on your internal furnace keeping you warm.
#2. Get your hands wet.
Wade out into the water and immediately dip your hands exposing your radial artery. This sends a message to your brainand heart that your not just putting your feet into the cold water.
#3. Splash some water on your face. On some of my coldest training days with water temps in the 40’s, I found it difficult to put my face in the water for the first five minutes. Splashing water on my face made it much more manageable.
#4. Splash some water on your chest or down your wetsuit.
Entering water that is cold can take your breath away and leave you gasping for air. This gradual splashing will help prevent that loss of breath.
#5. Take the plunge and swim happy!
This is not a step I take lightly and is in conjunction with step one. Mental attitude is critical. Keep your focus on being warm. On my 2008 Ederle swim I forced myself to sing songs that helped take my mind off the cold. Margaritaville by Jimmy Buffet popped into my mind and played over and over. The water was between 53°-57° and I swam 5 hours 20 minutes without a wetsuit. I had been training in cold water for months before I accomplished the 2008 Ederle Swim.
Please use common sense and gradually increase your exposure to cold water. The more you practice, the easier it will become.