How to Train in Colder Climates?

edited December 2012 in Beginner Questions
Hey all,

I'm new to this forum, but I've read a fair bit of the postings here. This seems like quite the nice community.

I am currently planning my first real distance swim for the upcoming summer 2013 (probably early August). I'm going to solo in Lake Huron (not across), on the Canadian side from Port Albert to Goderich. This is about 16K, give or take.

I'm fortunate enough to have semi-regular access to open water during the summer months, but the water is only reasonably warm for so few months of the year in Canada that the open water swimming season is small. By the looks of things, most of you come from warmer climates and can swim (near) year round outside. I'm jealous.

I get stuck in a dinky 25m pool swimming before the sun comes up for 8 to 10 months of the year. I just don't have the ability to sync my own schedules with local pools to maximize my training time. I get roughly 35 minutes 4 times a week, plus a longer stretch of 90 minutes once a week. In total, right now I'm hitting between 5 and 9 km per week, depending on set choice. In distance sets, I'm slightly under 20 min per km.

Now, before you all start telling me that my swims are too short, I am very much aware of this. I have plans to extend the length of my swims as I move closer to the swim date, plus the open water availability will greatly increase the length of my sessions. Generally speaking, I'm not too terribly concerned with reaching 16K, but I am cognizant of the need to improve the quality and length of my sessions.

But this all leads me to two questions:

1 - How do people train in colder climates? (I should note, I have no interest in any kind of cold-water swims (yet?)).

2 - How important are dry-land workouts? I have discovered this book which has forced me to think about how to improve my training by adding some dry-land. I am going to begin dry-land exercises this week at home, but I'm unsure about how to weigh that against my in-pool time. How many dry-land sessions should I be planning per week? Is more always better (assuming good health)? Should I be "exchanging" a pool session for a dry-land session?

I appreciate any thoughts or links anyone can provide. I love the challenge of open water swimming, but certainly could benefit from the advice of those more experienced than I.

Thanks!
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Comments

  • edited December 2012
    1 - I don't understand what you mean if you don't mean cold water swimming. My year breaks down into about 75% pool 25% open water. And I consider myself an open water swimmer.
    2 - Dry land is great if you do it. (Though I don't apart from shoulder exercises occasionally). But it's an addendum to swimming, not a substitute.

    4 to 9k a week is what I would swim on a week where I'm not swimming, if you follow me (Last week I had both flu and then an injury & swam 10K). 35 minutes four times a week I wouldn't consider training at all. Sorry if this not the answer you want. Also, I don't understand why a 25m pool is dinky.
  • Hey, if you want this forum to be "expert marathon swimmers only" then that's just fine. I'll just do what I can do with the knowledge I have. I'm just trying to get better.
  • edited December 2012
    Temper, temper?!?

    Maybe you should explain more explicit what you mean by cold.
    loneswimmer loves the cold - what else can he do in that part of the globe he lives in :D - and his cold is more likely colder than yours.
    But if your climate is cold then you should start to get used to "cold water".

    We had some Mediterranean swimmers at the 10 km in Hoorn in 2011 and they got out of the 18 degrees Celcius water after only 1 km because they found it cold. We Dutch found it a nice temp.
    All is relative.
    http://openwaterswimming.eu - Cold, wind, waves, sunburn, currents, jellyfish and flotsam! Hop in and join the fun!
  • Saying about two hours swimming per week is insufficient is exactly the kind of advice you asked for. Not liking the answer is a different thing. Marathon swimmers are united by the training as well as the actual swims. Yo said you were aware that we'd tell you your swims are too short and that you knew. I'm telling you, your swims are too short, and too infrequent.

    Bill Sweetenham, the Australian GB swim team coach, defines 8 to 12 hours per week as fitness maintenance training. Marathon swimmers will swim 20 hours per week at the height of training, 8 to 10 hours per week would be normal for swimmers around here for someone not training very hard. You are doing 2.

    Me not helping ... would be me not answering.
  • I don't think he needs to train 20 hours per week for a 16K swim.

    Also, if I understood correctly, he's just relying on warmer weather to be able to supplement his pool training with open water. It sounds like his problem has more to do with inadequate pool hours than cold tolerance. (If he thinks the lakes in Canada are ever "reasonably warm", his cold tolerance is already pretty good.)
  • Yes, my problem is exactly as you have summarized, WaterGirl. Any suggestions would be helpful.

    I apologize for the frustration, but I clearly have no aspiration to be a world class swimmer and am merely looking for some advice. If this forum is the wrong place, then that's fine. But why have a "Beginners Questions" tag if beginners are not worthy of posting?
  • My advice would be to think more about that 90 min session than the 35 minute ones. You may not have the time or even the need to have a 2 hour session every day. But you could shoot for one a week.

    On your seconds question: I consider drylands to be an essential part of my training. This may put me in the minority. Of course it is not meant to be substitute for swimming but a supplement.
  • I live in Denver, so my open water swimming season is much shorter than I'd like it to be (though it's been so warm and dry we probably could have stayed outside months longer than the state parks let us this year!). And even when I do have access to the open water, I do an awful lot of pool swimming, too. As long as you get some swims in open water done in the spring/summer, I'm sure you'll have done enough for a 16k swim, as long as the water isn't too terribly cold. I trained for the Tampa Bay Marathon Swim last year in only swiming pools, and I trained for MIMS 90% in pools- in hot, dingy, 25m pools with no backstroke flags, dodging lap swimmers and kids.... So, it can be done without open water swimming. You'll need more than 1 90 minute session per week though!

    I don't know what the water temp in Lake Huron averages that time of year, but I'd make sure you were comfortable in that temperature for at least a few hours. If it was me and I was training for a 16k swim, I'd say you'd want to average between 25k-35k/week for at least 2 months leading up to the swim. And the more exposure to cold water, the happier you'll be. It just depends on how much you want it to hurt. :-)

    Dryland isn't a bad idea, but I'd only use it as a supplement and not take away swimming time (especially if you have a busy schedule). I hate lifting, running, pushups, etc., so I don't do much- just some shoulder stuff with stretch cords if my shoulders are bugging me. Some people do a lot more, so it's really up to you and what makes you comfortable/confident. If you have time for dryland and not to get to the pool it certainly won't hurt your fitness.

    Hope that helps!
  • edited December 2012
    CBSkillz said:

    This seems like quite the nice community.

    Thank you - and welcome!
    CBSkillz said:

    I get stuck in a dinky 25m pool swimming before the sun comes up for 8 to 10 months of the year.

    Nothing wrong with that. It's more than many have. Like @ssthomas and many others, I do most of my training in a pool, though most of my target events are in open water. In fact I choose to do this, even though my local open water is swimmable without wetsuit year-round.
    CBSkillz said:

    I get roughly 35 minutes 4 times a week, plus a longer stretch of 90 minutes once a week. In total, right now I'm hitting between 5 and 9 km per week
    ...
    Now, before you all start telling me that my swims are too short, I am very much aware of this.

    You're right, it's not enough. My question is, Are you getting as much as you possibly can out of those 35 minute sessions? e.g.,
    - 5 minute warmup
    - 5x400m on 5:45, start at 70% effort, then descend
    - 100m cool-down
    == pretty good 35-minute session.
    CBSkillz said:

    1 - How do people train in colder climates? (I should note, I have no interest in any kind of cold-water swims (yet?)).

    By training in pools. And by learning to appreciate the joys of cold water. If you do become interested in cold water at some point, @loneswimmer 's blog is the best place to start.
    CBSkillz said:

    2 - How important are dry-land workouts?

    Not essential, but can be a great way to develop more balanced strength, to combat boredom, and be a generally better athlete. Core strength should be your first priority, dryland-wise.
    CBSkillz said:

    Should I be "exchanging" a pool session for a dry-land session?

    Given how little you swim, definitely not.

    Good luck!
  • I very much appreciate the comments. You have all offered helpful advice that I will use to expand my current training regiment. I discovered last night that a pool in a neighbouring city will be opening at 5:30am beginning in January, and since I happen to work in that city, I could reasonably swim from 5:30 to 8:00 once or twice a week. I suspect that would help greatly.

    I should clarify that I'm not opposed to swimming in cold water....so long as it is warm enough to not be putting my life in jeopardy (within reason, since it is all relative). But even so, the open water season is, at best, four months long (for me).

    One last question... do any of you train with music? I'm debating. I definitely don't need or want it for my short sessions. But In the past, for longer sessions, I've found it to be helpful in keeping away the boredom. I am a bit concerned though that I may not be giving myself the opportunity to build a mental strength to combat the boredom though. And since I won't be taking music on the actual OWS, I'm a bit torn.
  • I don't think he needs to train 20 hours per week for a 16K swim.

    @Watergirl, at no point did I say that.

  • CBSkillz said:

    I am a bit concerned though that I may not be giving myself the opportunity to build a mental strength to combat the boredom though. And since I won't be taking music on the actual OWS, I'm a bit torn.

    I'm a big believer in doing the same thing in training as you plan to do in the event, unless you have a compelling reason not to do so. I don't consider boredom a compelling reason, so I'd recommend not using the music. YMMV, of course.
  • I'm with @jonml: I'd stay away from it. What goes on in your head is far more interesting anyway.
  • CBSkillz said:

    One last question... do any of you train with music?

    I never get bored during a race or solo channel swim. I never get bored swimming with a team. I do, however, often get bored during solo pool training, especially long aerobic sets. So sometimes I use a SwimP3 during long solo pool swims, and I find it helps. I haven't found that it hurts my ability to stay focused during my "target" swims.
  • Just to re-phrase the question: can anyone who owns one that works well recommend one? I bought one once but the earphones kept falling out so never use it...... JB
  • When compared to open water swimmers in this group I am one of the least accomplished, my longest swim being the Boston Light which comes in at just under 13km (8 miles).

    At this point in my life I don't have much time for "serious" training. I get in the pool 5 times a week for about 50-60 mins, Monday to Friday 6am-7am. The good news is that I'm lucky enough to have found a Masters program that gives me a quality workout of about 3K each morning. In the warmer months (May-October) I supplement my pool workouts with gratifying 1-2 hour open water swims in nearby oceans, bays and lakes. Also, last January I increased my training frequency to 8 workouts per week in order to compete in the USMS 1 hour postal and I plan to do this again in 2013. This amount of training has let me be competitive in 2K-10K races. If you want annual numbers, I did 366 miles in 2011 and I'm on track to make 400 in 2012 (I know this thanks to the USMS fitness log).

    As far as dry land goes, I have a 10 minute routine that includes a few yoga positions to stretch me out that I do most evenings before bed. I sometimes get on a "core" kick doing 20 mins of exercises 3 times a week and I sometimes remember to use therapeutic bands to keep my shoulders happy.

    Don't get me wrong, I do have aspirations of longer swims and I know that it will require a bump in my training regimen, but at this point in my life it is what it is.

    So can you swim a 16K this summer at your current level? You said it yourself...you could finish. I think if you got into a good program, or just follow a good set of workouts, like the http://forums.usms.org/forumdisplay.php?f=100 you would start to see improvements and be on your way to swimming faster and longer. Also, I wouldn't substitute dry land for swimming, if anything start doing short dry land workouts, 20 mins 2-3 times a week in addition to your swimming.
  • oxooxo
    edited December 2012

    at no point did I say that.

    Temper, temper ! Nor did the OP request the advice that you say he did. In fact, the OP wrote the opposite:
    CBSkillz said:

    Now, before you all start telling me that my swims are too short, I am very much aware of this.




    .
  • oxooxo
    edited December 2012
    CBSkillz said:

    Hey all, I'm new to this forum

    As evmo said, welcome !
    CBSkillz said:

    I am currently planning my first real distance swim for the upcoming summer 2013 (probably early August). I'm going to solo in Lake Huron (not across), on the Canadian side from Port Albert to Goderich. This is about 16K, give or take.

    Looks like some beautiful shoreline to swim past, hill-rimmed and forested. Is this a formally organized route, or one you're creating? Northbound or south? What is your goal for the swim? Distance wise, have have you swum before? What temperatures do you expect?
    CBSkillz said:

    [quoted out of sequence] Generally speaking, I'm not too terribly concerned with reaching 16K

    I could read that a few different ways. Not sure which you intended.
    CBSkillz said:

    By the looks of things, most of you come from warmer climates and can swim (near) year round outside. I'm jealous.

    All lakes around here are frozen over, though about 3 hours away there's a 1 mile long 1/3 mile wide exception that is 38F spring feed at a rate that would refill it in 6-8 days. It doesn't freeze, nor does it unfreeze in the summer:)
    CBSkillz said:

    I get stuck in a dinky 25m pool swimming before the sun comes up for 8 to 10 months of the year. I just don't have the ability to sync my own schedules with local pools to maximize my training time.

    It could be painfully worse. Here, there's an Olympic that has no 50m lap swimming except in the summer! It's a mere 15 minute walk to get there, but I refuse to use it at 25m.
    CBSkillz said:

    I get roughly 35 minutes 4 times a week, plus a longer stretch of 90 minutes once a week. In total, right now I'm hitting between 5 and 9 km per week, depending on set choice. In distance sets, I'm slightly under 20 min per km.

    Now, before you all start telling me that my swims are too short, I am very much aware of this. I have plans to extend the length of my swims as I move closer to the swim date, plus the open water availability will greatly increase the length of my sessions. [snip] but I am cognizant of the need to improve the quality and length of my sessions.

    Personal experience is anecdotal -- that kind of mileage varies too. With that out of the way ... here's mine. A few years ago, before I had ever heard of the EC or any kind of long distance swimming, I did a 6 mile swim. It was a gargantuan feat in my mind. I couldn't believe myself. That swim is what really hooked me into swimming. I did the 6 miles with zero swim training, and zero exercise/training for any other sport, non-stop, solo, unsupported, without feeds/hydration/etc. My total mileage in the previous 6 months was 10-20 miles, previous 5 years maybe 50, and lifetime well under 100 (It should be obvious that I've never been on any swim team/group.) But through other endeavors, I had had experiences that taught me that extreme tiredness is still a huge way from exhaustion.

    If you've slayed that dragon too, then I'd project that you are already ready for the distance, especially considering your 35x4 + 90x1 pool sessions, and even though your 16k will be longer than my 10k. So I for one (and maybe the only one) won't tell you your swims are too short. If you can put up with group workouts and can easily schedule them in, then giving them a try makes sense to me.
    CBSkillz said:

    But this all leads me to two questions:
    1 - How do people train in colder climates?
    2 - How important are dry-land workouts?

    1) I do a lot of cold water swims. If there's at least 200 meters unfrozen, I'm in. Heads down.

    2) No experience with these


    If you haven't conquered fatigue (and other mental aspects), I suggest working on that (them). It doesn't have to be addressed through swimming. No matter how you address it, getting it behind you will have a huge reward in keeping your will intact and spirits up when the water, er, hits the fan. My 2 cents, less the fx fee.
  • edited December 2012
    Thanks, everyone. I think for now I will keep without music. I really don't feel like I need it, so I suppose its best to leave it out until/if I do.

    The good news is that I'm lucky enough to have found a Masters program that gives me a quality workout of about 3K each morning.

    I wish I could. That would be quite beneficial, no doubt. The Master's program in my area does not operate at the pool I am a member of. The pool it does operate at has hours that I just can't make (as do the Masters sessions). At this point, it doesn't look like an option, though I do wish it was.
    oxo said:

    Looks like some beautiful shoreline to swim past, hill-rimmed and forested. Is this a formally organized route, or one you're creating? Northbound or south? What is your goal for the swim? Distance wise, have have you swum before? What temperatures do you expect?

    It should be a pleasant swim. This is one that I have "created." We have a family cottage nearby, which was the inspiration for the route. Right now, I'm planning southbound, but depending on conditions that may change. Logistically, it won't make too much of a difference so it will likely be a "game-time" decision.

    In terms of a goal, the first is to finish (obviously). Second, I'd like to maintain sub-20 minute kms, which would put a target time of 5:20. Since this will be my first long open water swim, I've taken the pressure of speed off of myself. Depending on how things go when I am able to get back in the open water, I may revise this goal a bit.

    My OWS history is not long, and restricted mostly to swim sections of triathlons and the training for the events. So, much shorter distances, but in crowds of people and in lakes with waves & chop. Last summer I did a 4 km solo, mostly "just-because," which went surprisingly well considering my fitness level at the time. This summer that (and longer) will be a regular occurrence.

    In terms of temperatures, I'm guessing right around 20C for the event, but it will be much cooler when I get back in for training in the months prior.
    oxo said:

    I could read that a few different ways. Not sure which you intended.

    Yes, sorry. A bit light on details. Basically what I'm saying is that I have plans to ramp up my mileage closer to the event that should allow me to finish, but the means by which I will do this are not available just yet. I'm expecting to finish, but I'd like to not suffer through the back-half. I suspect that working harder now will pay dividends during the swim in terms of how enjoyable it is.
    oxo said:

    I do a lot of cold water swims. If there's at least 200 meters unfrozen, I'm in. Heads down.

    Wow. You're dedicated! I'm not sure I could train in water below 15C, at least not yet. But I'm warming up to the idea of being cold...
  • oxooxo
    edited December 2012
    CBSkillz said:

    This is one that I have "created."

    The best kind. I've no doubt you'll succeed. I cut my nutritional teeth on freshwaterswimmer.com (great resource for endurance nutrition)
    CBSkillz said:

    Yes, sorry. A bit light on details. Basically what I'm saying is that I have plans to ramp up my mileage closer to the event that should allow me to finish, but the means by which I will do this are not available just yet. I'm expecting to finish, but I'd like to not suffer through the back-half. I suspect that working harder now will pay dividends during the swim in terms of how enjoyable it is.

    Thanks. That was my initial impression, then I second-guessed.
    CBSkillz said:

    I'm not sure I could train in water below 15C, at least not yet. But I'm warming up to the idea of being cold...

    Not to disparage the training mindset, it's not training at all, every swim is the swim.
  • I trained for Catalina in an indoor pool which was 28°C to 29°C. The water for my Catalina swim was 18°C to 19°C with a drop to 15.5°C near the coast. I did no physical cold water training. I did jump into a 24°C pool every night at midnight for a few weeks for mental training. Otherwise it was developing an understanding between "damn that water is cold" from "damn I'm cold" through a few swims in SF Bay and just letting myself cold whenever I could.

    However, I do plan to add more traditional training for EC next year. I should say I'm not sure how much it helps: I've seen evidence that supports each side. But I do know that O°C was a lot warmer when I used to live in Alaska.
  • edited December 2012
    I trained for my first 10K in a 15m pool. No, that's not a typo. Only 15 meters per length.

    I did all my open water training in pools, to include all training for my first 10-miler. I did 3-4 days a week of 3k per day and during the last 6-8 weeks, I did once a week long swim of 6500-7500m.

    Like you, I'm a little under 20 min per kilometer.
  • I suppose if I do 50-50 degrees in open water it gives me around 6 months in the lake and 6 months in a 4 lane, 25 yard pool. Metres have not yet been legalised here in Naperville, Illinois. I believe it's a trademark issue.
    As a single mum with 2 kids, work and study, i only ever do the bare minimum of training required to complete my swims in spectacularly bad form. I do a fair amount of cross training, though, mostly running and biking whenever convenient, and I think this helps me enormously.
    Perhaps if you can't get more pool time, cross training could help?
  • I do a fair amount of cross training, though, mostly running and biking whenever convenient, and I think this helps me enormously.
    Perhaps if you can't get more pool time, cross training could help?

    This sounds like me--I got into swimming as a no-impact cross train when running was my major focus. I'm now in the process of swapping that, using running to give my shoulders a break. Result? Swim totals that make the hardcore folks here arch an eyebrow and run totals that make my marathon friends scoff, but between the two I seem to be doing okay.
  • I bought a pool from eBay for £400. It is 12 feet. I train for hours in it. Tied to the side with an elastic line, I swim till my hearts content. No time wasted travelling, I spend travel time in the pool. Right now it's 41F, great for 30 minutes before Christmas dinner and not a tumble turn within reach.
  • Haydn said:

    I bought a pool from eBay for £400. It is 12 feet. I train for hours in it. Tied to the side with an elastic line, I swim till my hearts content. No time wasted travelling, I spend travel time in the pool. Right now it's 41F, great for 30 minutes before Christmas dinner and not a tumble turn within reach.

    Talk about mental toughness. I am in awe of your efforts and humbled by your determination.

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