Secret Tip: Overheating in Swimming

In this video we talk about overheating in swimming.  The mechanisms of cooling a swimmer is different than it is a runner or a cycler. When you’re in air, we cool our bodies through evaporation, we sweat and as that sweat evaporates it cools the body.  That is the mechanism we have to reduce the body core temperature.

But in water it’s as if we’re swimming in a 100% humidity. We’re surrounded by water. So sweating doesn’t work. So how do we cool ourselves? Well, the water has to be the right temperature. And if the water is where it should be, between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, then it’s an excellent conductor of heat and as our body temperature rises the water will take the heat away from our body quickly.

The problem comes in when the water temperature is too high. Just recently one of America’s greatest Open Water and distance swimmers died because of too much heat in the water. Fran Crippen succumbed in an Open Water event where the water temperature was allegedly over 85 degrees and the air temperature was over 100. When you enter those kinds of conditions it’s best to say “Thanks, but no thanks!”. Don’t compete when the water is that hot!

R.I.P. Fran Crippen – “Reflecting on the Loss of Fran Crippen” by Gary Hall Sr.

One Response to Secret Tip: Overheating in Swimming

  1. Nico Messer

    Some more details to this weeks video tip:

    Dehydration is a problem for all sports, but less for swimmers. Less overheating takes place in 78 degree water than most conditions in air. Runners sweat much more in wet heat but lose more water through the lungs in dry heat. Both cause rapid dehydration.

    In bicycling or running at maximum exertion, the respiratory rate is usually between 50 and 60 breaths per minute. How can swimmers sustain their pace while breathing about half as often as runners or bikers? Or do they? (Check out the “Breathing Patterns” video tip to learn how you can increase your oxygen intake)

    Unless they are swimming in hot water, swimmers do not overheat like runners or bikers do. Water conducts heat better than air.


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