Alive and Fit: Unafraid to Brave the Cold
by Rita Kennen
Are you dragging yourself into the gym these days to exercise? If your workout is worn out, don’t be discouraged. Inspiration is just a stroke away. Let myprimetime’s tales of ordinary fitness heroes encourage you to stay Alive and Fit.
Nancy Friedman reminisces about her first chilling swim, 12 years ago, in the murky gray waters of the San Francisco Bay. If you’re daring enough to submerge yourself in 50-degree water, without a thermal vest or wet suit, chances are you’re going to love or hate the experience.
Read on for more details.
“I instantly loved it. I wasn’t cold. I wasn’t afraid; and I’m not a fearless swimmer by any means,” says Friedman, a 49-year-old creative consultant.
The muscles that make you move
Swimming is an exercise that uses almost all your muscles in a resistance motion against the water. Your shoulders and upper back are what actually propel the body forward as you swim. Muscles along the upper spine rotate and stabilize your head while your abdominals and obliques (the muscles around the ribcage), constantly work against the current to maintain your position. Even the motion of your elbows and wrists moving through the water helps push you forward.
Cold water transports the experience into a whole other dimension.
“Your first reaction going into cold water is to gasp and hyperventilate,” says Friedman. “Then you gradually get used to it.”
Colder than cold
In December of 1990 Friedman joined the San Francisco Dolphin Club, a group of men and women who year-round brave the cold waters of the bay as part of a unique fitness regimen.
“The winter I joined was probably the coldest winter on record. The water temperature went down to 46 degrees. I remember I got in for around 14 minutes and I thought I’d die. It was painful but I was hooked.”
Watch out for hypothermia
Mary Sanders is a spokesperson for the American Council on Exercise and a swimmer herself. She stresses the importance of understanding the dangers of cold-water swimming before taking the plunge.
“Hypothermia can occur when body’s core temperature falls more than 4 degrees. Be aware of feeling drowsy, loss of coordination, or feeling confused,” explains Sanders.
If you experience any of these symptoms get out of the water, take a hot bath or shower and put on warm clothes, she says.
Page:Is cold water swimming for you?