“Cold is between the ears”

We once participated in an open water competition. It was August, high summer and wonderful water temperature. All participants received a winter hat from the organization afterwards with the text “cold is between your ears” with Lifeguard classes near me.

And that is actually true. Swimming in cold water takes some perseverance. But the feeling that you are swimming somewhere when others are sitting by the central heating makes it special. And of course the feeling afterwards, the kick of having done it, the blood that starts to flow again, bringing you up to temperature again with lifeguard classes near me.

If you want to get used to swimming in cold water. You have to be mentally ready for it. Gradually weaning is the best way. So continue to swim regularly from the summer. Even if it gets colder and less attractive. If you skip a few weeks, the water temperature may have dropped so much that it becomes a big step.

And if you want to start in early spring, build it up gradually. Maybe first ‘dipping’, the next time a mini-swim and then continue to expand.

By the way: all cold-water swimmers think it’s cold. There is no one who just walks into the icy water without feeling anything. The first few minutes are the ‘worst’ but by continuing to move you will warm up and your internal heater will burn.

How cold is too cold?

There is no general answer to that. Lynne Cox swam a mile among the ice floes of Antarctica. The people traveling on the same cruise ship must have been surprised when she jumped into the 1.5-degree water in a bathing suit. Her adventures are described in the book Swimming to Antarctica. A must for swimming enthusiasts.

The fact that you can swim in 1.5 degrees requires a lot of perseverance. Training and getting used to it.

Swimming pools (the competition pools) in the Netherlands are on average between 26 and 28 degrees. Especially if you swim well, you can no longer lose your heat. So you can see that a range of about 5 degrees makes a big difference in how water feels with lifeguard classes near me.

In a good summer, the water temperature is around 20 to 24 degrees. It is also the limit at which the triathlon association indicates that the wetsuit must be removed during competitions. Because otherwise you can no longer lose your heat. If the water is around 20 degrees, it may take the average swimmer without a wetsuit to get through, but swimming is fine.

In the fall – when the nights get colder – the water temperature drops quite sharply. At the end of October it will be around 14 degrees, in December it will drop to 4 degrees. And if there is ice, of course to 0. In March the water goes back to about 9 degrees.

It is difficult to make a general statement about it. Mild or harsh winters. A fantastic spring, all of these affect the water temperature.

Measures the current water temperature in various places in the Netherlands. You can find it here .

Measuring the water temperature

Everywhere you come across different measurements, which can vary considerably. The water temperature you measure depends on a number of things.

In (triathlon) competitions, the temperature should be measured in the middle of the course. At a depth of 1 meter with lifeguard classes near me.

On the water surface and along the side – especially if you measure on the side where the wind is blowing – you always end up higher with the thermometer.

The reason is that warmer water floats on the surface. And is blown into the corner by the wind. This often explains the temperature fluctuations that you can feel while swimming. (At the European Championship Masters in Eindhoven in 2013, another cause caused temperature fluctuations. The open water competition was through the Eindhoven canal. Water temperature was 20 degrees. Only on 1 piece we were boiled for a short time. Turned out to be a discharge of cooling water to be from a factory located on the canal…)

Risks of Swimming in Cold Water

There are certainly risks of swimming in cold water.

When entering the water: Hyperventilation due to rapid breathing due to the cold
At the start of swimming: Brain freeze if your head gets too cold
When swimming longer: Hypothermia (surprisingly…). Your body loses heat quickly through contact with water. Your head and the places where veins are on the surface such as wrists and ankles provide extra rapid heat loss. It often starts with blue lips and numb hands/feet. Other signs include: stiff cheeks (poor speech), a gray face. Slower beating rate and slower thinking. Hypothermia isn’t cool, so get out of the water with lifeguard classes near me.

When swimming in extremely cold water: Death of the nerves just below your house surface (Lynne Cox did suffer from this after her Antarctica adventure). If you are planning to push your limits, you can always have such a medical examination done yourself!

Tips for swimming in cold water


  • Take a cold shower regularly to get used to low water temperature
  • Do breathing exercises to control your breathing. The cold tends to make you breathe shallow and quickly.
  • For example, read Wim and see if you can get inspiration from it.
  • Don’t go swimming alone, or have someone walk on the side
  • Look closely at the conditions: a cold land temperature and wind provide extra cooling. Provide a sheltered place to change again.
  • Make sure your equipment is in order. In our webshop we offer a special box with everything you need to swim safely in cold water.

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