Cold Water Acclimatization
Our human bodies have the ability to acclimatize to being, some what, comfortable in colder environments. We especially can acclimatize to colder water.
The plan is to spend the next 3-4 weeks acclimatizing to colder water in your shower or bath. The process will take no extra time in your day and can be done during your current showering routine – assuming you shower daily.
You should start the acclimatization process at least 3-4 weeks in advance of your first open water swim. Basically you are going to begin showering daily at a slightly colder temperature, reducing the temperature of your shower water weekly. You could shower more than once a day for a better effect. Naturally bathing – bath tub – works too!
First, let’s define a shower. For the purpose of our conversation, let’s assume a shower is completely soaking and for more than 10 minutes. This includes getting your head wet for most of the time too – in fact, the head and face are both quite important in this process.
So in the first week, you’ll shower (at least daily) at ¼ less hot water, then you regularly do. Then, the next week reduce by ¼ again. By the 3rd week you are showering in nearly just cold tap water. On the 4th week, you should be able to handle showering in just cold tap water.
Now, I know this does not seem pleasant and in fact, showing in cold tap water in NOT pleasant. But the idea here is to take away the natural sensation of being cold. Currently, it is likely shocking to be in nearly cold tap water temperature for any short or long period of time. In 3-4 weeks, it will be ‘do-able’. You’ll have to just trust me on this – Suck it up buttercup!
Sure, you could start open water swimming with your wet suit or without – without acclimatizing. Eventually (a month or 2 down the road), you will get to the same place – acclimatized to colder water, however, if you start to acclimatize prior the experience will be so much more enjoyable. There is nothing worse than shivering so hard after 15 minutes that you can’t swim, talk, towel off, walk, change, or ride your bike to get home. If you get cold enough to be totally uncomfortable, it will take a good hour or 2 to totally recover. By following my suggestion above, you will be able to swim much longer without getting really cold and you will recover much quicker, should you get quite cold.
I know this works as I do this annually in Toronto prior to taking my athlete into open water for training – yes, I’m in the water with them! If I don’t do it, I just shiver away after 15 minute like everyone else. Nothing less motivating than the coach instructing with blue lips and shivering so hard you can’t understand the instructions!
Naturally we are all different and your response to the cold water and the cold water acclimatization will vary but you can be sure to have some gains in ‘cold water coping’.
Now, get up and go take a shower.