I want to launch a little discussion (in your head at least) about how to get acclimated to colder water.

Let me review my proposed temperature grades:

Cool Water = 20 C to 16 C (68 to 61 F)
Cold Water = 15 C to 10 C (60 to 50 F)

But really, what matters is how you feel. Your own body is going to tell you clearly what is pleasant, what is uncomfortable, what is cool and what is stinking cold water. (You might just make your own temperature chart!)

We might break the approach down into two different scenarios:

1) When the water is cooling down, from pleasant (or tolerable) to cool and you have the opportunity to swim in it frequently enough to acclimate as it cools down.

2) When the water is already well below your comfortable range, its stressful (if not painful) to get in, and you may have to ease into it.

In scenario #1 we might attempt to hold onto a standard distance or duration for our swims as the water cools down over the weeks. This gives us a clear goal and a nice span of time to take notes and comparisons about how our body feels and performs during the swim, during week after week as the temperature changes.

This is my scenario at the moment. The sea is 23 C (75 F) as of today. I was cool but quite comfortable (under a mild sun) on my swim this morning. I swim in the sea 3 or hopefully 4 times a week. My goal is to hold onto a 60-minute-swim-tolerance as the sea cools this winter. So I realize I need to stay in that sea for an hour and go swimming as many days a week as I can afford in order to give my body a good chance of acclimating and keeping that goal (comfortably) all winter.

In scenario #2 the body is immediately shocked by the cold water, so we have to start in small portions of time (and this may mean REALLY small portions of time- like 2 minutes!) and do it frequently enough so that we can gradually increase the duration of our swim.

Though I am in scenario #1 at the moment, if I don’t go frequently enough or stay immerse long enough, scenario #2 will become my situation this winter. It is an important part of our mental safety training to recognize when our scenario makes that switch, so we can adjust our expectations accordingly.

We’ll talk about the stages the body will experience in cooling in an upcoming post. Twould be good to know when to safely get out, yes?

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