The opening of pools around the country has coincided with the onset of winter. If you live in a city where temperatures drop below 15 degrees, then you would have to look at continuing your swimming in a heated pool. This does not necessarily have to be indoor.

For my pre-Olympic training stint in Perth in 2000, temperatures dropped to between 2 to 6 degrees and we trained in an outdoor heated pool. In most parts of the country, temperatures do not drop below 20 degrees. There should be no reason why this should disrupt your regular swim routine.

This is even more true if you are by the coast because on both coasts there is not much of a winter and it remains humid and warm right across the winter months.  

Here are some of the top reasons why swimming in colder water is beneficial:

  • It kick starts your metabolism and burns more calories
  • It reduces inflammation and soothes sore muscles (this is added incentive for those who go to the gym and come back sore)
  • It improves your mood and improves concentration
  • It reduces stress and causes an explosion of endorphins

Here's a guide on how to approach your next swim session this winter

  • Cover up adequately before and after a swim with a hooded jacket and jeans. You’d be surprised to note that the water temperature is warmer than the land temperature, which means you are more at risk of catching a cold post-swim. Try to immediately remove a wet swimsuit and dry wet hair thoroughly. Once you get into warm clothes a hot drink of coffee/tea/milk will do wonders.
  • Land and water warm-ups are more important in winters. 10 minutes of dry land stretching and some jumping jacks should increase your body temperature enough for the initial submersion into the pool.
  • Water warm-up in the form of a slow continuous freestyle/breaststroke swims for between 50-200 meters depending on your swimming ability. My favorite warm-up includes a kick set with a kickboard and fins. By the end of this, I'm not even feeling the chill anymore and I’m ready for my main workout.
  • Remember that you will burn more calories in cold water so you can do a slightly shorter workout in the winter months. I would suggest reducing the rest intervals so less time is spent stationary in the water, and thus your body can maintain a higher temperature.
  • You can change from a normal swimsuit to a full-body swimsuit made out of Nylon or Lycra. Alternatively, wear an armless neoprene top over an existing swimsuit for warmth. Avoid diving wetsuits as they do not allow mobility in the arms and can therefore affect your stroke.
  • Remember that the first 100 meters are always the worst, but eventually, you will feel no different from your regular workouts once your body has warmed up
  • Keep a flask of hot water to sip on next to the pool.
  • Since the water is colder, do more freestyle, backstroke, and butterfly as part of your main workout as these are faster strokes for recreational swimmers and hence will bring your body temperature up.
  • During periods of recovery between sets, keep your entire body from the neck down submerged in case you are swimming in an outdoor pool where it is windy.

The best part for me is having more space in the pool during the winter months. My swim workouts will never stop in different weather conditions. The only time you should evacuate the pool is when there is heavy lightning, otherwise, it is perfectly normal to swim even in heavy rain.

To end I leave you with my most favorite cold water swimming memory. I swam 30 heats and finals over 4 days at the Manipur National Games in sub 16-degree water. The result was 14 gold medals and my most memorable swim meet ever!!!

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