Cold Water Training - Tips for Open Water & Triathlon Swimming

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Cold water swimming is unpleasant and uses up energy at a fast rate, so you need to guard against hypothermia.  These expert tips will help you stay at a healthy temperature in the icy water.


  • Always wear a full Neoprene wetsuit when the rules of the triathlon allow it.  This means full-length legs and sleeves, because a sleeveless wetsuit allows a lot of heat loss from the arm-pits.
  • Wear two Neoprene caps to help conserve heat and form a barrier against the cold water.  Neoprene is better than standard latex at insulating your head.
  • When the water drops lower than 60º Celsius, you should definitely protect your ears with earplugs which also help to maintain your core temperature.
  • Moving down to the feet, wear Neoprene socks during the training phase to protect your toes from the early stages of frost-bite, which can easily happen to cold water swimmers. 
  • On race day leave off the socks, because they can slow you down in the transition to your bike.


For your safety, always train with at least one companion and try to get in about 8 – 12 weeks of training before your race to build up your stamina.  You can do a lot of your training in a swimming pool, but you must train in cold, open water at least once a week.

Learn how to acclimatize yourself correctly to cold water and don't just plunge in.  The rapid change in temperature as ice-cold water hits your face makes the lungs contract sharply and can cause hyperventilation and panic. If this ever happens to you, swim very slowly until you get control of your breathing.


Always do a good, long warm up of about 10 – 15 minutes because this helps to reduce the shock your body feels when it comes into contact with the cold water and lets you get into a regular stroke more quickly.

Then wade into the water until you're about waist deep, put your face into the water and blow bubbles.  This helps your body make the temperature change without going into shock or survival mode.

Cold water swimming is a real test of fitness and determination and these tips will help you face the challenge with a competitive advantage that could just win you the race!

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