The four seasons, they come and they go. We hope for the spring water to warm up. We rejoice when summer heats up the open water. We pray that summer temperatures remain in autumn and we pine as autumnal lows slowly rob the open water of the summer heat.
We at FitandAbel.com swim coaching work with the many different open water groups: triathletes, open water racers, open water enthusiasts, sportive swimmers, neoprene addicts, the open water purest. Some groups overlap extremely well. Some groups remain clear of each other. Regardless of differences … we all have one conversation in common; The water temperature.
How do we get used to the ‘natural’ water temperatures the open water offers? Acclimatisation acclimatisation acclimatisation. If you went overseas for a holiday to a hot humid country from a cold climate and stepped off the plane the heat would hit you. The more days you were there the more comfortable you would become. No we are not saying you should spend days on end in the open water. We are saying you need to get in the open water regularly. You need to get in early in the season and spend a little time, often, and slowly build up the duration in the water.
At FitandAbel.com we like to think we get along well with all the swim groups mentioned above. The most important thing is that swimmers are comfortable in the water . For some that means just a bathing suit. For some that means a wetsuit. For some it may require a skull cap and booties. Frankly, unless you are doing an official open water marathon swim that requires only bathers, cap and goggles to be worn, we don’t care. As long as you are comfortable, swimming and having fun.
One thing we have noticed that has occurred regularly this season was swimmers starting open water training early (good) wearing swim gear they prefer to keep warm (no problem) . Then as the water heats up 1°C or 5° or 10°C they are still wearing exactly the same clothing. Heard of the winter coat theory? If you wear a winter coat and it is warm what are you going to put on when it gets cold? Another winter coat?
It’s the same principle with swimming. If you continue to wear your entire collection of neoprene warm gear as the water temperature heats up you will acclimatise in that swim gear. The worse case scenario is then you travel for an open water swim event (Kiwis read Challenge Wanaka!) and you have to swim in water 10°+Celsius cooler than you have been training in wearing your usual wetsuit cap and booties. What are you going to put on another wetsuit, cap and booties?
One of the reasons folks tell me they swim in a wetsuit all the time is that they enjoy the security a wetsuit provides – yes it is basically a form fitting life jacket. If you learn to swim well without a wetsuit you are going to be better placed to take full advantage of the qualities a wetsuit provides. If you can’t or choose not to try swimming sans wetsuit, your technical issues may continue to be hidden by the wetsuit design, but they can still hinder the swim.
Let’s start in the spring; Early open water swimming. Cooler temperatures. Wear what you need to in order to keep warm, for some that may be an under garment and a wetsuit. The water heats up and you can remove the under garment. The water heats up some more… You can remove the under garment and just swim in a wetsuit. The water heats up even more why not remove the wetsuit and just wear the under garment. The water heats up even and it is time for the speedos. That’s four different levels of swim wear, five if you swim nude. Not that we are advocating that!
Now you’ll be comfortably acclimatised AND if you travel to cooler climates OR when that autumnal feel sneaks up you can put on a wetsuit or an under garment and you’ll appreciate the full effect. We call it layering. It works.
*We’ve been working with our friends at SeventhWave http://www.seventhwave.co.nz/ to develop our preferred non wetsuit middle level garment . Developed by swimmers for swimmers. We call them RealSwim Skins. They’ll be in our online store soon available to folks only in Australia, NZ and the USA (UK availability to follow) . Flick us an e-mail if you’re interested to hear more firstname.lastname@example.org