Swimming without a suit in the winter
No suit during winter time?
Before talking about what happens to our body in low temperatures, how low do we even talk about?
The temperature in the Mediterranean Sea (Israel shores) goes as high as 33°c during summer time and as low as 13°c (and usually it doesn’t get below 16) during winter time. It is important to know that our skin surface is 33.1°c, therefore, any temperature below, while being stationary enforces our body to compensate.
Swimmers swim in 28.5-27.5°c water temperature on average, and complain about being cold during winter time, and hot during summer time. So it is clear it’s all about relativity (water temperature + air temperature dividing by 2), and not water temperature on its own. For example, last year, the toughest day (coldness wise) was 19°c ocean temperature and 3° air temperature. It was much colder than 17°c ocean temperature when the air temperature was 15°c.
Before we tell you why you wouldn’t want to put a suit on during winter time, allow me to get some points across:
1. It is not recommended to start swimming at winter time, before you swam open water at summer time. Like anything else in life, it is better to go gradually.
2. It is not recommended to swim under cold conditions if you suffer a cardiovascular disease (it doesn’t mean there aren’t people out there doing so with stents in their hearts), unless under close medical supervision.
3. It is recommended you swim with a coach or an experienced swimmer during your first few workouts.
4. You should swim close to shore.
5. Fat tissue is beneficial under cold conditions, but it is not recommended to gain weight before starting open water swimming.
6. Swimming in cold water burns more calories and fat, in a shorter time.
So why would we want to swim with no suit? And why has it being gaining popularity over the past few years?
Few years ago I went swimming at Hof HaZuk when it was 17°c. We started the workout with 20 swimmers, and finished with 2. Most of them quit at 20°c. Gur and I were the 2 swimmer. Gur wore a suit, I didn’t. we were shivering, then we noticed a 80 years old guy, walking around, not even shivering, looking at us giggling, and probably thinking to himself ‘those kids are spoiled’. I must say that guy has taught me a lot. I still see him, few years later, at the same spot and same time. He looks amazing drinking his post workout black coffee. He must has being doing something right in his life if he’s able to swim 2km every single day, stormy and wavy, winter or summer.
I would like to start with sharing my feeling about swimming suit free, and finish with some tips I’ve learned as a swimmer’ and as a coach.
It is simply amazing… getting ready for swimming in the cold ocean (and I’m not talking about 20°c, but way under, around 17°c). Some like so keep warm till the moment they get in, and some, like me, like to walk barefoot to the water, even if you freeze your feet off.
There are some rules obviously: you are not allowed to say it’s cold out loud, you are not allowed to shiver, and everybody waits to see who takes his cloth off first. Then u must get in the water as quickly as possible.
Some people jump right in the water, some shout before they get in, some close their eye. I walk around telling people how hot it is and splash my face and body, wait 5 seconds (so my body gets used to the temperature difference) and jump right in.
Then you must control your body. At first your fingers freeze off, and your head feels like a popsicle. Then you slowly start to warm up, or at least not freeze any longer. The feeling at first is incredible. Your whole body is working, and if you listen to it carefully, you can hear your blood pumping throughout your whole body. It is amazing how your body goes from being under an extreme stress to a complete homeostasis within 5 minutes.
It feels like the body is doing its own thing, and you are the audience on the side, listening to the splash noise when the arms hit the water and to the blood circulation. You can feel your body accommodates for the changes, flexing pretty hard.
Getting out of the water and being done is just as fun. It feels like the body has created a defense mechanism, for its own use. Being able to function in cold water is like taking down a shot of power and concentration, which gets you going for few hours (and I, ADHD labled, can confirm it).
Furthermore, your skin gets so smooth and shiny, smoother than any peeling treatment you could think of. So your skin is clear, you face feels clean and your eyes get that special shine. What is more to ask for? It is an amazing feeling.
So what does our body go through?
In order to understand a bit more, I would like to give you an example. It was a 10km workout (it took 3 hours) in a 22°c ocean temperature and 17°c air temperature. When it’s 22°c ocean temperature with no suit I need 2 gel packs, maybe 3. When it is 17°c ocean temperature I need 8 gel packs, 2 energy bars and 1 protein bar. When it’s 22°ocen temperature I keep my food at the buoy. At 17°c I have it all on me.
I take the gel pack down with water, so it slips down easily. Going 2 minutes stationary with no movement will cause you to freeze off for the next 30 minutes before you will be able to warm up once again. You might not even be able to warm up, and you will find yourself having no other choice but getting out of the water.
Now, let’s get things into proportions:
*coach Pedro Water world swim
Friends from San Francisco talk about the warmest it gets for them- 18°c, which is “too hot” as they are used to say. So one may think we are a bit spoil over here. The warmest time during summer time is somewhere between 3-18°c for them.
Open water swimming is gaining more and more popularity every year. There are so many swimmers who love the ocean, and don’t want to ruin the natural feeling of the body with the water, or as some of them describe it- “I like it better condom free”.
Some more proportions:
In the picture you can see Ram Barkai, also known as the “frozen water guru”, who loves swimming in 0°c water. And I’m talking like, absolutely loving it.
We had a fascinating lecture with him last week about swimming in Antarctica at (-)1°c. He gave some tips for the crazy ones among us:
1. It’s all mental.
2. Don’t put a cup on above 14°c (which is cold as hell).
3. If you do find yourself shiver, do so gently (and be cool about it). Don’t let your whole body look like its undergoing a seizure.
4. Don’t have sex the night before, because it will hurt the next day
5. If you are cold at the end, never, but never have a warm shower. You wil get the reverse effect.
He gave so much more tips I can go into details here…
To summarize up, open water swimming energizes you. Swimming with or without a suit during winter time reinforces your immune system in an incredible way. No suit swimming has a greater reinforcement effect. It protects and balances it, and overall makes it younger.
Of course everything has to be done in a gradual manner so you have a good experience. Also, you should consult experts before jumping in the cold water.