Throw on a wetsuit or stay in the pool?

BillBill Member
edited May 2017 in General Discussion
The bodies of water in my general vicinity for training are currently at 48 and 51 degrees respectively. I'm dying to get into the lake, but it's just too damn cold for me to put in 3 hour training sessions. So, I've got 2 choices, throw on my winp suit until the temps get manageable (58ish) or stay in the pool for another 3-4 weeks. Which is better in terms of specificity for OW swimming?


  • jcmalickjcmalick Wilmington, DEMember
    I'm not an advocate of wetsuits and this is a sore issue for everyone but I do believe that getting some exposure to cold water will help you to HTFU...just make sure to wear a silicone cap, no gloves, or pool can compare to the open water especially when it is in the 80s! If you have a Farmer John Wetsuit, that would even help stay warm and help with chafing. Just my two cents!
  • david_barradavid_barra NYCharter Member
    Bill, IMHO Stay in the pool for the volume you need and get in the OW (sans rubber) for "as long as possible" sessions which will increase in length as the water warms.
    I think its better to get used to colder water as it will make the "manageable" 58 degrees rather casual.

    ...anything worth doing is worth overdoing.

  • evmoevmo San FranciscoAdmin
    edited May 2012
    I question the value of training in a wetsuit, if your target swim is sans-wetsuit. Actually, I think it may be counter-productive. One of the primary objectives in training for a marathon swim is learning how to maintain efficient, hydrodynamic body position, even when you're exhausted. Wearing a wetsuit completely negates this challenge. It's a different type of swimming.

    Agree with DB - stay in the pool for volume, and supplement with cold OW, even if it's only a few minutes at first.
  • MikeHMikeH Member
    I've started my training every Jan - March for the last 10 years in a farmer john wetsuit. The ocean and lakes near me are about 45 and 48 F in the winter, respectively. I find the farmer john lets me do both volume and open water, and I appreciate it immensively over swimming in a pool - which I've grown to dislike over the years. Putting aside my dislike of the pool, the farmer john definitely helps with cold acclimitization - I wear a normal swim cap, no booties or gloves, and...doing that at 45 is, imho, much better than relying just on cold showers and other cold acclimitization tricks. It's a lot more satisfying & fun too.

    The point about the wetsuit fundamentally changing the body position, speed, etc is all true. But I don't have any problems going back to normal swimming when I dump the suit when the water temps crest into the 50s - it's not been a big deal. And the pool has it's own issues because long swims include flip-turns which provide you don't have to sight.

    To be honest, I don't like wetsuits. At the end of the day, though, I don the farmer john and stay outside because to me it's a lot more fun to do a few hours in a farmer john than back and forth in a pool.

    Just my experience and view...
  • WaterGirlWaterGirl Scottsdale, AZCharter Member
    I agree with Dave and Evan about the pool being better for training. That's how I do it also--with a much different cold threshold.

    But if you'll enjoy yourself more by going with the wetsuit like @Mike_H123, I think you should go for it. Sometimes I feel like my Marathon Swim Training gets in the way of Having Fun In Open Water. I think the fun is as important as the training.
  • AquaRobAquaRob Humboldt Bay, CACharter Member
    Can you guys believe I'm about to say this? Put on the wetsuit... it's what I used to do when it got too cold until I worked up to a point where my local patch of water never gets too cold.


    Although you're getting a lot of body positioning benefit from the wetsuit you're also getting a lot of experience in open water conditions which will be valuable to you when the suit comes off. Breathing in chop, sighting, etc are all things you can't practice in the pool but you can in a wetsuit. And who knows, this year you'll wear a suit from 48-58 degrees, maybe next year your tolerance will increase and you won't need it until it hits 55 and on down until you're a polar bearing madman who likes 48 degree water. It could happen... it did to me :)
  • loneswimmerloneswimmer IrelandCharter Mem​ber
    I wonder if picture of wetsuits on this forum count as offensive material? Literally?


    I'm with DB,Evmo, jcmalick, etc.

  • AquaRobAquaRob Humboldt Bay, CACharter Member

    I wonder if picture of wetsuits on this forum count as offensive material? Literally?

    I thought the picture would be shocking and disheartening :) Also I'm a little ashamed, let's not tell anyone about this ok? haha
  • MikeHMikeH Member
    Personally, I believe all of my sons prefer to see me ensconced in a wetsuit vs. having to look at me in a thigh-length racing suit (much less the racing suits I grew up using) :).
  • bobswimsbobswims OregonCharter Member
    I'd choose the pool. In fact I do choose the pool. I do it because I can get in a much harder workout when doing interval work with a clock. Moreover, there is no limit on how much time my body can handle being in the water. (That's of course you ignore the fact that the hair on my body gets burnt off by the chlorine when I am in a lot. There is also the travel time I save by going to the pool.) In the alternative swim with the wetsuit.

    One thing you have probably already found out, is that it is harder to sight in a wetsuit because your legs float. That's a plus for training those skills. As for the flotation, keep in mind that you will float better in salt water than in fresh. In the Gulf I barely get wet because I float so well. So it is all relative. I don't think it makes sense training in water a lot colder than you will be in for your big swims. Maybe I'm in the minority on that one. However, if you will be doing any rough water swims, definitely get in as much as possible with or without a wetsuit.
  • BillBill Member
    Well, it looks like my ass answered the question for me.... Tried my wetsuit on last night and it was an ugly, painful sight. Looks like I'm staying in the pool for the long swims. I think I might venture in for a short OW swim this week to see what I'm able to do.
  • This winter I've been using wetsuit shorts, & two silicon hats, in water around 8-10C.
    I find the shorts give me a tiny bit of comfort, but not too much buoyancy, similar to a pullbouy. Around 9C I can do an hour or two, the benefits are probably psychological but it all helps. When I take them off, 11C+ I find the water is warm enough, to have no numbing problems & can start pushing the time up. I do drop some speed, but I believe they help me feel what a good body position feels like. (zone3 buoyancy shorts)
  • GarbageBargeGarbageBarge NY (Hudson Valley)Guest
    This thread did a nice job on a question I asked in the cold water thread. I guess if your goal is to prep for a channel crossing/swim to an island, in cold ocean water, then acclimatizing without a wetsuit makes sense. But, if you’re training for a summer distance swim in much milder water, I really don’t see the issue with starting your outdoor training a little, or possibly much, earlier and extending your season a later in a wetsuit. The pool is great for sets, but for slogging miles, gimme OW every time. If the choice is no wetsuit and a short swim where you’re not really sure how long you can safely swim, or a pool, the pool wins. But if you have the right wetsuit to make it safe, why not use it until you get a better handle on what you can handle, a la AquaRob, or until it warms up. In my case, I have easier access to a lake than I do to a pool. I can only get in about 30 minutes, 3 times a week in the pool. It sounds like some no wetsuit advocates are putting in massive pool hours and short cold water swims with no wetsuit. Isn’t that just substituting the pool for a wetsuit? Also, how much sighting do you have to do in a supported swim anyway? The time to put on and take off a wetsuit seems to be an issue some cite. But, is waiting for the shivering to end before you can drive home really a better trade off?

    My local water hole hasn’t cracked 60 yet. I went in for about 40 minutes a few weeks ago in my man suit, and then last weekend with a borrowed spring suit for about 47 minutes. My shoulders felt restricted in the wetsuit. It definitely wasn’t a racing suit, but I’m going to strongly consider a cheap, thick farmer john to extend my training season in the fall. Summer races will be in the man suit. The folks who race in them are generally not too fast, so it’s fun to blow by them. I can’t see the buoyancy or even the shoulder restrictions affecting my stroke once I shed the neoprene, and I’ve never had issues with my legs dropping, no matter how hard the Frigidaire drops on my back. If I ever go for the EC, I’ll build up the cold tolerance. If I ever get down to Coney Island for a weekend swim, I’ll feel better with the company to not have the security of the wetsuit. But for solo swims, hypothermia is about the only thing that I worry about.

    Finally, there’s this: Sean Connery wore a wetsuit while swimming in his hideout’s loch, during a gale, in Entrapment, before he got it on with Catherine Zeta Jones. Respec’!
  • ChickenOSeaChickenOSea Charter Member
    Just a thought....
    I freak out in wetsuits but if I didn't I'd consider using one to extend my outdoor season.
    Can you get hold of one of those now-illegal B70 swimsuits with the thin neoprene bits? They were as cheap as dirt when they were made FINA illegal but I often wondered if they would be a decent compromise between wetsuits and naked..? I'm having some weird health problems right now and can't handle much cold so am thinking of looking for a (big) B70 to try because they don't look like they have the strangulation issues if wetsuits
  • KNicholasKNicholas ArizonaCharter Member
  • Swimming without the suit in cold water will limit the immersion time, but it will allow you to swim hard for 20 / 30 minutes and get acclimatised. Both are great training advantages. With a wetsuit all you get is an hour or two of ordinary swimming.
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