Shanghai Running Magazine volume 1, Q1 2014 - Page 19

Training Shanghai Running, We Run Shanghai Open Water Swimming By Tori Widdowson Now at this time of year it‟s time for winter swimming! Swimming in colder water brings different risks and rewards. Cramp is more likely, but so is a natural „high‟. Temperatures between 12 and 16 degrees are described as „fresh‟. With or without wetsuit, two swim hats are a must, and neoprene booties, hoods and gloves are optional. Essentially your extremities are going to feel the cold. Your lips might feel numb, so you might mumble your words, but then if you are swearing about the temperature, that‟s not a bad thing. The first few minutes can feel unnerving, and, well, cold, but then once you are moving it is exhilarating. According to a medic writing for the Outdoor Swimming Society „the cause of the swimmer's high is not entirely clear. Although endorphins may play a part, it could also be due to the increased levels of adrenalinevia a mechanism not entirely dissimilar to that of cocaine!‟. Open water/wild swimming Currently getting a name in other parts of the world as „wild‟ swimming, open water swimming is a liberating experience which offers, if nothing else, a brilliant opportunity to escape crowded Chinese swimming pools. As a lifelong swimmer, open water never meant anything more than adventure to me, but for many who perhaps didn‟t play in strong Atlantic waves every summer holiday, or regularly fall out of canoes as a teenager, the prospect of not touching the bottom can be intimidating. Confidence is key, and to give you confidence you need to feel safe. You can prepare for that quite easily: never swim alone; consider using one of those small float-on-a-belt things the first couple of times (approx. 30 RMB on Taobao); never jump or dive in, wade into the water so you can feel the changing depths; and swim within a few meters of the bank. If you want to participate in triathlon, definitely get a little open water experience before your first race, to avoid any unpleasant first impressions! And once you have a little experience, consider extending your open water season. In Moganshan reservoirs, for example, you could start a little earlier, in April, and finish in November, rather than May to October. Once you are accustomed to open water, and want to stay in longer, later in the year, your next investment might be a wetsuit. Many runners and bikers that get into triathlon naturally look for ways to make the swim quicker and overall less energy-sapping. Wetsuits offer this by providing extra buoyancy, so energy is spent on forward propulsion rather than staying afloat. It also might help with endurance training for longer distances, but still it is better to try training with and without. If you only train in a wetsuit you feel the water much less so it is harder to develop good technique. Consider open water not just as a training exercise, but as exploration. Look out for branches and rocks in the water that might hurt if you kick them, but also enjoy being in nature, note how the wind and the sun feel on your back, and how the water temperature changes in the shade. Learn to „spot‟ by looking straight forward before a breath to the side, and aim for something in the distance, not the person in front of you as they might not swim straight either! In the UK, organized „chill swims‟ mandate no wetsuits in temperatures below 5 degrees Celsius, with roped lanes to record 30m, 60m and the challenging 480m distances. Experienced swimmers are also attempting „ice miles‟. Note, that in these temperatures, organisers are extremely well equipped with safety boats and „warming tents‟ to cope with emergencies. Prepare your exit from cold water well – have your „changing‟ room organized, out of the wind, and relatively „private‟ so you can change quickly; leave the car heater on; and take a flask of hot coffee or a nip of whisky! For lots of tips on cold water, and places to swim around the world, this website is a great resource: www.openswimmingsociety.org Swim safe Tori Widdowson Transition Events http://www.transition-events.com Swim date for your diaries – 26/27 April, Moganshan. 500m/1km/3km Swim. Copyright Shanghai Running 2013. www.shanghai-running. com 19