Tips to brave the cold water temperature during open water swimming

A hot topic among open water swimmers and triathletes; from what water temperature can you swim outside? You may know it, spring is here and the sun is inviting you to go for a swim in the open water with Lifeguard courses near me.

But when you first step into the water, you feel in your ‘waters’ that it’s actually far too cold to withstand your workout. You conclude that you do not know whether the temperature of the water is suitable for swimming. Now that the open water season is around the door, this is playing again. This article will help you with information about our own experience and the regulations, so that with the right knowledge you can open the open water season and enter the water with peace of mind!

From what water temperature can I swim in open water?

Swimming in open water is possible from a minimum of 13 degrees, of course with the right equipment and experience. By the right equipment we mean awetsuit, so that the body retains its own heat better. However, it is very personal how the body reacts to cold water temperatures. A minimum of 13 degrees is a guideline that we recommend, but everyone should feel for themselves from which temperature it is ‘comfortable’ enough to enter the open water. Of course it is not comfortable, but at least tolerable to endure a good workout with Lifeguard courses near me.

Wearing a wetsuit ensures that you can swim in the open water earlier, but also different types of training!

Not only the temperature, but also the intensity and length of the training have an important influence. While training at a high intensity (interval), the body generates extra heat. In contrast, you swim at a lower intensity during technique or endurance training. We have prepared the table below, based on our experience, for swimming with or without a wetsuit in combination with different training sessions and water temperatures. This table serves as a guideline, because who calls a 30-minute endurance training a ‘real endurance training’…?

Get used to cold (open) water, it’s possible!

A novice open water swimmer often finds it more difficult to tolerate cold temperatures, because the body is not used to them. We therefore always recommend that novice swimmers wear a wetsuit. By making many training hours in open water, the body will get used to the cold conditions. Try to enter the water calmly and with frequent breathing so that your body can get used to the situation. A common phenomenon in cold water is ‘claw hands’, where a swimmer can no longer keep his fingers together. This is at the expense of swimming speed because you can transfer less force to the water. To prevent this, many training hours have to be made here, so that the body can get used to the cold water.

When is a wetsuit mandatory?

The KNZB (Royal Dutch Swimming Association) and the NTB (Dutch Triathlon Association) both maintain separate rules regarding the use of wetsuits during competitions. When wearing a wetsuit during triathlon competitions, triathletes must comply with the regulations of the NTB.

The KNZB follows the rules of the FINA (international swimming federation) for the use of wetsuits for open water swimming. The rules of the FINA prescribe that a wetsuit is mandatory at a water temperature between 16 and 18 degrees, voluntary between 18 and 20 degrees and prohibited at a temperature higher than 20 degrees with Lifeguard courses near me.

The NTB uses different rules for wearing a wetsuit, which are based on a swimming distance of up to 1500 meters and longer than 1500 meters. At a swimming distance of up to 1500 meters, wearing a wetsuit is mandatory below 15.9 degrees, voluntary between 15.9 and 21 degrees and prohibited from 22 degrees. At a swimming distance longer than 1500 meters, the use of a wetsuit is mandatory below 15.9 degrees and prohibited from 24.6 degrees.

However, as of 1 May 2018, the KNZB will implement a regulation change with regard to the use of a wetsuit. This change in regulations is as follows: “For distances longer than 3000m, and at a water temperature below 18 degrees, swimming with a wetsuit is mandatory. At a higher water temperature or shorter distances, swimming with a wetsuit is not allowed.” KNZB, 2018.

The different organizations therefore have their own rules with regard to temperature and distance. The table below clearly shows when wearing a wetsuit is mandatory, voluntary or prohibited at the various organizations with Lifeguard courses near me.

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