Updated: Feb 5
Open water swimming is becoming more and more popular and knowing how to recover safely after swimming in colder temperatures is extremely important.
Like after any swim, you still want to do the usual things for a quick recovery. Things such as:
1) A good cool down to prevent Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness. Probably wise to do this on land rather than in cold waters so 5-10 mins of stretching will do the trick.
2) Rehydrate. Sweating does still occur during a swim so get fluids on board as soon as possible.
3) Eat a quick snack to replenish the body’s energy. Something sugary like a banana is perfect.
However, some swimmers, especially swimmers who aren’t used to doing open water swimming, may find they suffer from Afterdrop and therefore extra care is needed in recovering after a swim.
What is Afterdrop?
Afterdrop refers to the decline in your core body temperature after you've got out of the water. When you swim in cool water, your body reduces blood flow to your skin and limbs in an act to protect vital organs. Your body is simply trying to maintain your body's core temperature while your skin, arms and legs cool down.
Once you get out of the water, cold blood from your limbs returns to your core mixing with the warmer blood, causing your overall body temperature to drop. This is why you only start shivering 10-15 minutes after leaving the water. You may find that even though you are feeling fine straight after the swim, you may still be at risk from Afterdrop which can then lead to hypothermia.
Recovering from Afterdrop
Thinking, ‘I'll just have a hot shower, that’ll warm me up fast’ is actually one of the worst ways to recover from Afterdrop. A hot shower will increase the rate at which colder blood returns to your core and makes the Afterdrop faster and deeper. It's not uncommon for cold water swimmers to faint in hot showers, so you need to concentrate on warming up slowly and steadily.
The best and fastest way to help prevent Afterdrop is to get dry and dressed as quickly as possible. Wearing a thick coat with a warm fur lining would be perfect and it will help you safely warm up immediately after the swim.
Other ways to combat Afterdrop can be:
1. Getting out of the water before getting too cold.
2. Drink something hot and eat something. However, avoid alcohol as this makes you lose more heat.
3. Keep a watchful eye on people you are swimming with. They may need your help.
Make sure you have fully recovered!
Another thing to remember is that attempting any form of transport such as driving or riding a bike after your swim can be very dangerous if your core temperature hasn’t fully recovered, as it can affect your cognitive abilities. That, as well as shivering while driving, is not a good mix.
Treat open water swimming a bit like drinking. Having a designated driver or giving yourself long enough to recover before returning home would be wise and will most definitely ensure your safety.
Check out the video below!!