What You Should Know Before Swimming in Cold Water

Swimming is a lot of fun and great exercise to boot, but it is important to take the proper precautions before taking to the water. Whether you are swimming in the ocean, enjoying the lake at your local national park or just hopping in the neighbor’s pool, the temperature of the water matters.

Your body reacts differently to different water temperatures, and when the thermometer plummets the amount of energy needed to stay warm and keep moving increases significantly. You may be able to handle cold water if you are a strong swimmer and in great shape, but if you are a beginner or in less than perfect shape you need to be especially cautious.

Cold water can cause your muscles to stiffen up and your circulation to slow down. That can make getting back to shore more difficult, certainly an important concern if you are swimming in the ocean or out in deep water. You may not feel this muscle fatigue right away, and it can creep up on you without warning. Unless you are experienced in cold water swimming, it is best to stick close to shore or stay in shallow water until you know how your body will react.

Some health conditions can make swimming in cold water not only difficult but dangerous as well. If you have a preexisting heart condition or a history of heart attacks, you need to pay careful attention to the temperature of the water. Swimming in cold water will put additional strain on your heart and could even lead to a life-threatening situation.

Cold water swimming is also dangerous to people with asthma or other respiratory difficulties. If you have been diagnosed with asthma, COPD or a similar breathing problem, you should stay out of the water when the temperature dips too low.

It is somewhat difficult to put a number on how cold is too cold for swimming, since everyone responds differently to changes in water temperature. Even so, most swimmers will find water less than 55 degrees Fahrenheit quite cold for swimming. If you must take the plunge when the temperature falls this low, you should follow these common-sense safety tips to stay out of danger.

Suit up

Wear a wetsuit whenever you swim in cold water. The wetsuit will help keep your body temperature up and make cold water swimming more comfortable. You can top off the wetsuit with a silicon hat, and you should consider booties and/or gloves if you are swimming in the winter.

Stay close

If you must swim in cold water, always stick close to shore and make sure you do not venture out too far. You will want to give yourself plenty of leeway in case you suffer muscle cramping or other problems that could make getting back to shore more difficult or slow your swimming pace.

Acclimate your body

Simply jumping into cold water is not a good idea. Give your body plenty of time to get used to the changes in temperature before you embark on a lengthy swim. Swimming in cold water on a regular basis will help your body get accustomed to the lower temperatures and make your workouts safer and more comfortable.

Be safe

Always bring your Nekdoodle when you go swimming in cold water. The right equipment can help you stay safer in the water and allow you to get the cold water workout you are looking for.

In a perfect world the water would always be warm and inviting, but seasons change, and we must adapt. Cold water swimming can be done safely, but it is important to take some precautions to make sure you stay out of the danger zone when hitting the water.