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Cold Water Swimmer

And your response, too, is you’re hyperventilating and it’s hard to swim and maintain a pace when you’re hyperventilating. I mistakenly tried to pull my breathing down to a slower level, drawing more, colder air into my lungs, but boy, that was so stupid because the air temperature was 32 degrees and if I’m breathing deeply it will go down into the lungs and cool me from the inside out.

So the body, at times, knows so much more than the mind does. Also, the mind has to stay so focused on what’s going on with the body. Are my fingers staying together or are they splaying? If they’re splaying, coming apart, that means that I’m losing fine motor control and my brain is cooling down and I’m in trouble. Is there blood pooling on my shoulders? Are they turning purple? That’s not a good sign either. Are my teeth chattering while I’m swimming — that’s also a very bad sign. I should be out of the water.

If you take a normal person or an untrained person and drop them into cold water, what will typically happen is they’ll vassal constrict the peripheral areas. The peripheral blood flow will close down and throw it all into the core of your body to protect your brain, lungs, all your vital organs.

At some point though your body will go, “You know what? We need to get oxygen out to the extremities,” and it will start pumping blood out, it will open up or vassal dilate. When it does that, it’s fine. It gets the oxygen out there but it’s then exposed to the cooler water and then it circulates back in and starts to drop a person’s temperature.

When you take me and I’ve been training, what normally happens is I will close down my blood flow to the extremities and you’ll only see a minute amount of blood flow out and back. I have very well distributed body fat that helps to keep me insulated; also, I have a lot of muscle mass that I’ve worked really hard to develop that gives me power and strength. It’s also the energy factory that creates the heat to keep me warm. If I were just a big person I wouldn’t do as well in cold water. Beyond all that it’s mental attitude, wanting to do it, really desiring to try something extraordinary.

A lot of people are like, “She doesn’t feel the cold.” I feel the cold! But the focus isn’t on, “Oh it’s cold!” You feel it, but then you get in it and the focus is on movement through the water, on processing information, on the texture of the water, the color, the saltiness of it, the way the cloud patterns move across the surface. All this water memory comes back to me and I relax.

Updated Monday, June 18th, 2007

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