Swimming in cold water and stay warm without a wetsuit. Is it possible? Can you train / prepare for it? Can it be pleasant? My tips on how I mastered swimming in cold water (by cold I mean swimming in water bellow 11°C/52°F).

I always had problems going into water that wasn’t warm enough for me. It was never something I would say is a pleasant experience for me.

Even on holidays in height of the summer when water was actually quite warm I needed some time to get in. Yes I was a bit of softy back in day 🙂

Cold water adaptation

Some time ago I found out about this guy, he is sort of a super human as he holds several world records for various achievements. To mention some:Swimming under solid ice, being buried in ice for more than one hour and so on…

So I started doing some of the things he is teaching. One of the things was doing cold showers in the morning. Cold showers have many proven benefits for the human body and are a great energy booster. What I discovered was that after a couple of months of doing cold shower I had no more problems going into cold water. We went to a beach once in early spring and the water had about 10°C/50°F. Everyone on the beach was mostly just taking a walk and people were mostly dressed in jackets or long sleeves. I decided to go for a swim as I was doing the cold showers for a while now and thought this might be a good chance to see how difficult will it be to get into the cold water.

Ice Swim tips
Ice Swim tips

I never liked going into cold water. Even in hot summers, when water was warm and the air outside was really hot I didn’t like to just jump in. But now everything was different.

I was the only one putting on my swimsuit on the entire beach that day. I just went straight in and to my surprise I had no difficulties whatsoever.

I have been showering in even colder water that this so I was used to cold temperatures, but taking a shower and going for a swim is something different so I wasn’t sure how difficult this would be. But it was super easy and I didn’t had any problems what so ever.

No need for a wetsuit

It was such a joy to have a swim in the sea in early spring and I had the entire sea for myself (ok there were some swimmers in wetsuits but that is not the same). I thought to myself what a great thing it is to be able to swim all year round as the sea water temperature here in Europe in most parts never drops much below 10°C/50°F.

We people are so limited with our believes that we can swim only when the water is just about the right temperature. If the water is not above 22°C/7250°F most people never go into water and that is a shame as our body is well capable of handling much colder waters. I am not saying go unsupervised into freezing cold water for a prolonged time where hypothermia is a guaranteed result. I am saying you can train your body to enjoy colder water for a limited amount of time and this capability is amazing.

How to perform cold shower training

This is an explanation on how I trained for this. I am not saying this is the only way of doing it but this is how I have done it. Please note you should consult your doctor if you have any conditions that this regime cold potentially harm you, such as an existing heart problem or something similar.

Some people can go straight into cold shower but I never liked it so I don’t do it most of the time. If I really feel like it I go straight into the cold shower but most of the time I start with normal warm water. Once I am wet I start turning down the hot water slowly. In the beginning it took quite some time before I reached the cold water and I didn’t go to 100% cold water in the first weeks so don’t feel bad if you are doing it slower as this is a way of exercise and you will progress with time. After a couple of weeks I was able to turn hot water down faster and I went to the maximum cold water. Initially just for about 10 seconds but after a while I was able to do it for up to a minute. Once you reach this level you are good to go swimming into cold sea.

What happens to your body when it gets cold?

Nervous impulses sent to muscles generate extra metabolic heat through shivering. Blood vessels that would otherwise transport warm blood from the internal organs to the cold skin, where the blood would lose heat, constrict, constraining most blood, and its heat, to the internal organs. “What happens to your body when it gets cold” from Independent

So the idea is that you adapt your body to cold water slowly. Your body must master the response described above. You have to train your body to withstand the cold but also your mental part of reacting to cold water and this transformation doesn’t happen over night.

I hope this helps someone to train himself to swim in cold water.


I am happy father of two and a health and fitness enthusiast.

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