Tag Archives: Third Spacing Of Fluids

The effects of a long swim on the human body

It’s long time since I wrote about Third Spacing of Fluids, the increase of fluids in intercellular spaces that occurs when a person is swimming for a long time, and causes all marathon swimmers to swell and literally bloat.

I though it might be best to show the effects more clearly.

The first video is a commercial my sister, a noted Film and TV producer made using me as the swimmer one typical day driving down to, and then swimming at Sandycove… Notice I look particularly slim, tanned and healthy from my open water swimming life, full of life and raring to go (and some might say, handsome, though that’s not for me to comment). Notice the grace and elegance and indeed, presence and sense of belonging in the water that I embody. Though I do note that my stroke technique was a bit off that day.

Next is a video taken after this year’s of Rob Bohane and I at this year’s Sandycove Distance Week six-hour swim, in 12 to 13 degrees Celsius water . Look at the profound effects. Our body are much enlarged. Swim, goggle and cap lines have created deep creases in the skin, sand and kelp have accumulated on the lanolin, we’re both somewhat clumsy once on land, and we’re quite a peculiar colour, the whole body enlarged. Rob’s demeanour has changed from his normal sunny self to a grumpy disposition and we’re certainly not looking our best, though Rob is looking even worse than me.

A few minutes after getting on the boat…

Taken in Force 5 winds while the boat was being thrown about the place, so it’s a bit blurred.

I’m bloated from the previously mentioned Third Spacing of Fluids. (This actually passed within a few hours due to urination.)

Anti-fouling paint from under the boat.

Channel grease and accumulated dirt.

Ocular orbits swollen and white from wearing goggles.

Weird Open Water swimmer’s tan.

Kevin Murphy, King Of The English Channel, seated beside me (and Hoffy’s legs).

Proudly (should I have noticed), wearing my Swim Ireland Irish hoody.

I’m not falling asleep there, I’m trying to concentrate on not throwing up. I didn’t succeed. :-)

Third Spacing

Another of the joys of Long Distance swimming in salt water is bloating.

It’s a combination of factors including Third Spacing, more properly called (apparently), “Third Spacing of Fluids”.

Prolonged exposure to salt water causes the body to swell, making marathon swimmers look bloated after a long swim. There is also electrolyte loss causing Third Spacing as fluid leaves the the blood vessels and builds up in the intracellular spaces, when it’s normally confined to the tissues (75% of fluid) and plasma (25%).

I don’t know precisely how prolonged immersion needs to be before bloating becomes obvious (though I’ve read 2 hours), but it’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it.

The picture is of Grant Hackett before and after the 10k 2008 OW World Championships that purports to display the effects of Third Spacing on him.

So get your pictures taken BEFORE your swim… ;-)