Havsvømming om vinteren del 2 - Akklimatisering og forståelse av kaldt vann

Sea swimming in winter part 2 - Acclimatization and understanding of cold water

Written by Chloe Rafferty, Manager of Love SwimRun and STA Open Water Swimming Coach. Translated by Frivannsliv (we reserve the right for possible errors).

When preparing your body for cold water, you can take cold showers or baths to get used to the feeling of cold shock. The first dip in cold water will be a physical and psychological shock, but once your body is acclimatised this response is blunted.

The best method of acclimatization is to expose yourself to it often, at least once a week , and preferably more, and gradually increase the time you stay in the water (pay attention to the other points in this article). Ideally, it's best to start swimming in the summer when the water temperature is warmer, and then continue swimming through the fall and then the winter, but that doesn't mean you can't start in the winter.

Understanding cold shock

When you get into cold water, your body will experience a cold shock response - the cold water causes the blood vessels in your skin to constrict, forcing your heart to work harder to deliver oxygen to your vital organs and muscles. Your heart rate increases and your blood pressure rises. Cold shock can cause a heart attack. If you have a heart condition (or family history of heart conditions) or asthma, seek advice from your GP before starting to swim in cold water.

The sudden cooling of the skin also causes an involuntary gasp after breathing. The breathing rate increases rapidly, which contributes to a feeling of panic. This effect can last up to 3 minutes. Try to relax and let your body accept the cold. You want to breathe in forcefully, but try to concentrate on breathing out slowly. The good news is that it is possible to train and get used to the cold shock response quite quickly. After performing approx. 5 or 6 two-three minute swimming sessions where the whole body (but not the head) is under water, you should be able to halve the cold shock response!

Wetsuits do not remove the cold shock response completely as the cold water will quickly seep into the suit , but after a short time the advantage of the neoprene kicks in, and the layer of water trapped between the skin and the wetsuit heats up and insulates against the cold.

Never jump or dive into cold water. Enter the water gradually, pausing once or twice to allow the skin to adjust to the temperature. Do not go into the deep until the first cold shock response has passed. When you wash out, you can splash water on your upper body and face to start getting used to it. When you're up to your shoulders, dip your face in the water a few times before you start swimming properly. Once you start swimming, try to keep moving and concentrate on keeping your breathing steady.

How physiology affects your ability to swim in cold water
Your body shape and size will have an effect on how you handle cold water. The fat on our body, especially the subcutaneous fat, provides insulation, so the more you have, the more insulated you become! The ratio of weight to body surface area is also important, so if you are short and heavy (have a lot of fat), you will probably cope better with cold water swimming because you have a high body mass in relation to body surface area. Taller, slimmer people lose heat faster as they have a large surface area and not as much natural insulation.

Do you want to know more about how you can get used to the cold during cold winter dives? You can read about that in this article , written by Bryan Mineo, founder of One With The Ocean.

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