relatively new to open water swimming and I am loving it!
I joined this lovely group last year when I was a happy but very slow breast stroke swimmer and I have finally mastered how to do the front crawl and am now training for the Thames Marathon which is a bit daunting but a real challenge.
I was asked to write an article about the effects of cold on our bodies when we swim in cold water and let’s face it, it’s been really cold recently! Many of my friends think that I am even more crazy than usual but I find it so exhilarating and I find that I look forward to immersing my body in freezing water each Saturday…
I have been nursing for many years, mainly in Intensive Care units both here and in Australia. During my time I have dealt with a fair amount of drownings and hypothermia; interestingly more drownings here than in Australia as they had stringent rules about enclosing swimming pools.
I would point out that I have never looked after an open water swimmer that has got into trouble so a lot of this information is for interest and not a premonition.
I have been reading around about the effects of cold water on us crazy winter swimmers and will share the following points:
Phase 1-first 4 minutes after immersion in cold water
Phase 2- first 30 minutes leads to cooling of peripheral tissues, which has a poor effect on neuromuscular activity. This can be significant in the hands leading to stiffness and loss of power; this can make it difficult to execute survival procedures
Most fatalities occur in these 2 earlier phases
Phase3-onset of hypothermia-classified as 35 degrees or less
Mild-32-35 degrees-shivering (thermoregulation) can persist
Moderate-28-32 degrees-thermoregulation diminishes, conscious level decreases
Severe-less than 28 degrees- Loss of consciousness, no shivering, life threatening heart rhythm-(VF)
So why take the risk?
As long as we don’t drown cold water swimming can -
There are plenty of amazing people who swim for long periods in really cold water who repeatedly defy the odds-they have acclimatized themselves—read about Stig Severinsen and his rather interesting swims!
I hope you find this interesting. We have certainly acclimatised ourselves to the cold this year and I find that I can cope with cold weather so much better now.
Here’s to a fantastic year of swimming!!
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