You know how one can reliably tell that summer is certainly over? I start writing about cold water.
Let’s kick the winter swimming season off, shall we? Okay, I know the water is still warm, but it’s often this time of the year that people stop or get close to stopping open water swimming until spring. It’s the best time to think about extending your summer winter season into cooling water as it’ll be months before the water is really cold and maybe this year you will go that little bit colder.
Cold water is the subject that just keeps on giving. There will be a follow up to this post of Ten More Common Myths of Cold Water Swimming.
1. You have to be really fat
While fat is a good insulator and increases the amount of time people can spend in cold, the prerequisite of being really fat or overweight is probably the most common myth about cold water swimming. Almost anyone can swim in cold water regardless of body fat. There are some physiological restrictions but there are more to do with cardiac or circulatory issues. You do not have be fat to swim in cold water.
2. Alcohol is good (before, during or after)
Alcohol should never ever be taken before during or immediately after a cold water swim. More people realise this now, but I feel this dangerous will never fully die.
3. Cold water swimmers never get cold
For very short swims the body’s core temperature isn’t affected for almost everyone but even very experienced cold water swimmers do get cold if they spend sufficient time in cold water.
4. Cold water swimmers never feel the pain
Even the most experienced cold water swimmer will feel the pain of cold water. What they have learned is that it’s temporary and reduces with experience but never disappears.
5. Cold water swimming develops muscles
Cold water does not grant any special muscle building capacity. Swimming as a general exercise isn’t particularly good for muscle building without ancillary exercises.
6. Cold water swimmers are healthier
Anecdotal and scientific evidence does indicate that open water swimmers are less prone to illness.
7. It’s better to dive into cold water and get the shock over quickly
This very common myth is one reason people die. Diving into cold water carries multiple risks: Sudden impact with a subsurface rock, aspiration of water during cold shock and cardiac arrest. Instead, splash water on your face and neck and enter carefully.
8. It’s good to have a cold shower or get cold beforehand
This myth occasionally arises as people think by being cold beforehand they will be more comfortable in the water. In fact it’s best to hold onto body heat as long as possible to maximise your time or comfort in the water. Stay dressed and warm as close to swimming as possible.
9. It’s good to have a hot shower or stay really warm beforehand
The opposite myth to number eight, this one is true. While having a hot shower beforehand might be overkill or impractical, you should retain or maximise heat before entering cold water. Stayed dressed or in a warm location.
10. Water that is covered by ice in colder
This one is a bit complicated. Fresh still water freezes at zero degrees Celsius. Sea water freezes somewhere around -1.7 degrees to 2.0 degrees, depending on movement and salinity. Water that has a layer of ice above it may increase the water slightly in temperature due to the ice above acting as a barrier. On the other hand water close to ice may also be very cold. Other factors such as water movement and depth affect this also. Lake water that’s covered in ice will be coldest at the surface, ice-covered sea water may not be,
In the next part we’ll look at Ten More Myths of Cold Water Swimming