Saturday, March 21, 2009

Polar swimming

At the FT, a nice piece by Margaret McCartney on polar swimming (site registration required). Here's an interesting bit:
In a paper published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine in 2001 researchers reported on eight experienced Russian open-water swimmers taking part in a relay in Finland. The water temperature was below 11°C and after they had swum they entered a sauna to warm themselves. The swimmers decided how long they would swim for and when they felt they should stop. The researchers found that the participants were able to judge safely when it was time to return to the boat.

There is even good news for the more curvaceous among us. The studies are small, admittedly, but it appears that the more fat one has, the more insulated one is against the effects of cold water. I suspect, though, that the polar swimmer Lewis Pugh would not be impressed. Pugh, who was profiled in The Lancet in 2005, has trained in water cooled to 2°C in preparation for Arctic and Antarctic swims. The result is that he has apparently developed additional physiological resistance to extreme cold. While there is data on how wetsuits and swimsuits can help to protect one from the moderate cold, Pugh swims in nothing more than a pair of trunks.


ShirleyPerly said...

I'm shivering just reading this!

Rainmaker said...

I read an interesting study on this a while back. In short it basically said people can go for a long-ass-time as long as they kept on moving and got beyond the first 90 seconds. Assuming both qualification were meet, results could be pretty impressive.

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