Swimming is one of the few sports that can be done year-round, but as we hit the middle of winter, rather than layering up, swimmers around Australia are stripping down, diving in and embracing the open water. Some think they're mad, but they simply love it!
Braving the cooler temperatures, those familiar will know the feeling all-to-well, of when your skin first hits the icy tundra. Many find it refreshing and enlivening, but there is also an art form to warming up safely after your icy dip.
If you’ve spent any time around open water swimmers you may be familiar with the term ‘after-drop’, but for those getting started on their winter swim stint here’s what you need to know about safely controlling your body temperature during your cooler than normal dip.
The ‘afterdrop’ is commonly experienced after swimming in cold water, occurring due to your body’s circulation to your skin slowing, pooling warm blood towards your core. This helps you stay in the water longer, but as you start to warm up out of the water the process kicks into reverse.
Blood recirculates to all extremities, cooling as it travels back through the body, mixing with the warmer blood causing your body temperature to drop. This process can lead to shivering and feeling faint and unwell, even after you’ve moved into a warm environment.
The key to avoiding this is to warm up slowly and gradually, if you rush trying to warm up, with a hot shower for example, you run the risk of drawing the warm blood that has pooled at your core to your skin rapidly, leading to further cooling and a drop in temperature along with your blood pressure.
Key steps to follow:
- Wrap up to warm up - get dressed quickly into dry warm clothes. Immediately after swimming you may feel great as the cooled blood has not yet returned to your core.
- Don’t take a hot shower as this will increase the rate at which cooled blood returns to the core and makes the drop faster and deeper. Wait until you’ve warmed up again before showering.
- Drink something hot and eat something. Shivering consumes a high volume of energy, best to refuel.
- Get out of the water before you get too cold as you will continue to get colder after swimming – give your body a margin of safety.
Remember when you are swimming in the open water, follow these simple safety measures:
- Swim with a friend.
- Tell others where you are planning to swim and when you plan to be back.
- Always swim within your capability and fitness level.
If you want to swim with others, why not consider joining a Winter Swim Club? You can find one through the Winter Swimming Association.
For more great swimming tips, training plans and skills, download iSwim FREE from the app store.