How to stay warm open water swimming

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It seems that shivering in a beach car park is a right of passage for open water swimmers, and I can assure you that white fingers and toes, maybe even a little bit of lock jaw are nothing new! That said there’s a lot to be said for creature comforts, so here are my top tips how to stay warm open water swimming:

1: Get a super tight open water swimming wetsuit,

as well as helping your swim more comfortably and for longer a well fitting suit will also reduce flushing and keep you warmer. Two piece suits are a great choice for winter as they don’t have a zip to let water through, but whatever you choose make sure the suit has got waterproof taped seams (buying a wetsuit from the sale rail at the grocery store is a mistake!)

2: a swim cap will help take away the ‘ice cream brain freeze’,

or even better you can wear two to keep even warmer. When it’s really cold consider wearing a neoprene vest hood, they give a lot more insulation and the vest (which is worn under your wetsuit) stops water flushing into your suit. You can get them from good surfing stores, the ones with a really thin or even fabric vest are best as they don’t limit your flexibility too much when swimming.

3: Neoprene Socks and Gloves

cover even more skin and will keep you warmer swimming. Wetsuit socks are the first to wear as these make walking into the water much more comfortable (Boots dont really work for swimming as they are too rigid at the ankle.) Gloves make a big difference but you lose your feel for the water so I only wear these when it gets seriously cold (although you lose the feel of the water flow which is important to maintain technique you lose this anyway when your fingers turn white!)

4: Drive to the beach / lake / pool wearing your wetsuit…

It may not look sexy, and may turn a few heads when you leave the house but you will get to the water warm and get to skip the cold weather car park change! Doing this after your swim is also a great idea, providing you can keep you car seat dry.

5: The ‘Scottish’ shower:

This is my personal favourite as it ticks off two birds with one stone, fill a big bottle (like the 5L water bottles from the supermarket) with warm water before you leave home, it should stay warm in the car wrapped up in a towel for an hour or more. Then after your swim you’ve got a glorious hot water carpark shower waiting for you, you can even add some environmentally shower gel for a full wash! Even ready to go straigt to work without smelling like a wetsuit!

6: Get yourself a changing gown:

If you do change outside then a change robe will make it a lot more pleasant and warmer as it gives you some shelter and stops any windchill. It might not look sexy, and they’re quite baggy but there won’t be anyone around to see you when its really cold!

7: Earplugs

will help keep cold water a little bit further from your brain! If you suffer from dizziness or ear irritation after being in cold water then earplugs could really help.

8: Swim and sauna!:

This one should be saved for a special occasion with friends otherwise it could turn into an expensive habit! There’s plenty of boutique hotels scattered around the coastline that will have empty saunas or hot tubs / steam rooms waiting to be used in the off season!  Its fair to say all will have a no wetsuit policy, so maybe save this option for going ‘skins’ knowing  whilst swimming that you’ll have something warm to come back to.

Finally when swimming in cold weather always stay within your limits, if your fingers are feeling cold or go white its time to get out of the water and warm up, DON’T let the cold spread any further. Cold water can lead to cold shock response, inhalation of cold water and even death. If you do not have experience swimming in cold water, or are not acclimatised then don’t go in unless accompanied by an experienced swimmer.

Any more ideas to keep warm when swimming? leave them in the comments below?


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