The Swim Professor

Jim Reiser, M.S.

How to Swim Comfortably in the Cold

If you ever have the chance to enjoy an outdoor Jacuzzi during a pretty winter snow, you will absolutely love it. I would advise against making snow angels upon your exit. Let your husband do that! It will be a lot funnier!

SO WHAT ABOUT SWIMMING LESSONS in the COLD? While I am by no means endorsing outdoor swim lessons in the snow, you may be surprised at what you can accomplish if your pool is in the 90-93 degree range, despite cool air temperatures.

In the video I posted below, you can see my 3-year old Rex and 4-year old Wells in their swimming lesson yesterday. Do you see any indication that they are cold, uncomfortable, or unhappy? This video was taken October 8, 2013 in Columbia, SC. It was raining and 59 degrees for their 4:00PM lesson! The water, however, was 92 degrees. And as you can see, they are happy as can be, and all they did today was improve their swimming and had lots of fun! Don’t believe it? Here is video evidence, and you can google our weather for today.

In my 31 years of teaching swimming lessons and coaching competitive swimmers, I have seen my share of cold swimmers. I have been miserable myself because of cold water. In 1993, I taught swimming lessons in Pennsylvania at Liberty Park in South Fork, PA near Johnstown. The pool was fed by natural spring water. Even during the month of June when air temperatures were in the mid 80’s, I remember teaching and feeling like I was going to freeze to death.

Even though the year was 1980, I will never forget swimming in the West Newton Rotary Swim Meet in West Newton, PA. I was twelve. Our Johnstown swim team was in a close race with the Butler Y swim team from Pittsburgh going into the final leg of the relay. But when the Butler swimmer’s anchor leg dove into the pool, the race was all but over. Why? The Butler swimmer barely entered the water and literally erupted to the surface crying and screaming it was so cold. He swam right back to the wall, jumped out of the pool, and we never saw him again! They were disqualified and we won the gold! I would guess that pool was no warmer than 70 degrees that September day which is REALLY COLD WATER. Did you know it is a scientific fact that 80 degree water feels like 40 degree air? I wonder what 70 feels like? I just remember feeling numb when I finished my leg of the race. But us Johnstown kids are tough!

I personally HATE being cold, and I have no intention to ever swim or teach cold again. I wear a 3mm wetsuit anytime I teach, even in the summer in South Carolina! I’d rather be hot any day. I guess that explains why I made my home in SC after living in PA for my first 22 years (Well that and I met the most beautiful girl in the world who happens to be my wife:-)

So back to the premise of today’s blog. “How to Swim Comfortably When the Outdoor Temperatures Start Falling? ”
1. Set your pool heater to 92-93 degrees and keep it covered with either a solar blanket or thermal blankets when it’s not in use.
2. Consider a 3mm Wetsuit for yourself and a Kids Konfidence Wetsuit for students to keep them warm even when they exit the water.
3. Limit your lessons to 30 minutes. Limit your Novice Swim Team to 60 minutes.

In the end, use common sense. If a child looks uncomfortable or says she’s cold, get her warm and ask her to come back when the weather is better. Secondly, follow the golden rule. Treat others as you would want to be treated. In other words, if a child’s parent doesn’t want their child to swim, respect their wishes as you would want them to respect yours.

Lastly, if you teach in cool weather on a yearly basis but you keep the water 93 degrees warm, the culture will change. Swimmers and swimming parents are the most dedicated people you will find. As long as they know you care, as long as you take care of their children, you will have more and more swimmers every year taking advantage of your warm water (and helping you pay that gas/electric bill)!

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October 9, 2013 at 2:49 am Comments (0)