Need recommendation for keeping warm in a cold pool

I am a 68 year old triathlete who works out in our local university (UCSC) pool. I have Raynauds syndrome and very slender (5’4”,  105lbs). I freeze in our pool which is kept at about 80 degrees year round. I would love to find a 3 mil shorty wetsuit but can only find 1 and 2 mil. I do fine if the water temp is 83. Don’t want to leave this gorgeous 50 meter out door pool. Any suggestions greatly appreciated 

  • As someone who has spent nearly my entire life in the bottom 5% of BMI, I can empathize. I've never found a silver bullet, but there are some things that can help take the edge off:

    1) Wear a thick silicone cap. It helps more than you might imagine.

    2) Start warm. Yes, it makes the act of getting into the pool worse, but ultimately starting with a lower core temperature makes it harder to stay warm so stay wrapped up in a sweat jacket and sweat pants until just before you get into the pool.

    3) Make sure you are well fueled. I'm not advocating swimming on a full stomach, but having consumed plenty of digestible calories several hours before working out can help make sure you have plenty of fuel. Shivering is actually a mechanism your body uses to warm up, but it takes energy. Make sure fuel is available.

    4) Keep moving. Active recovery is better than standing at the wall. Do turn-to-turn swims in a deep lane where you start/stop each swim in the middle of the pool so you have to tread water between efforts. (Yes, this will challenge your aerobic system.) 

    5) Don't do low-effort stuff like drills early in your workout. You will just get cold and miserable. Get in and do plenty of work to get your engine running. It is better to space brief periods of low-effort stuff among longer periods of effort. Long periods of low effort stuff area  recipe for getting cold and miserable.

    6) Bring a thermos with a warm drink. Keep it at the end of the lane and sip little bits during workout. Just warm water or water with a little sugar in it is good.

    7) Pick the most sunny lane, if there is one, and swim at the most hot/sunny time of day.

    8) There is a mental aspect. Having a detailed plan of what you want to accomplish at the pool is good. I find that it keeps me focused on what I want to accomplish and less on the misery.

    9) Complain to pool management. There is no reason a pool should be less than 80 F. That temperature is actually specified by several of the major swim racing governing bodies as ideal for competitive swimmers. I agree that for us skinny folks 82-83 is better, but you won't get any traction there. Nevertheless, below 80F is not defensible. I can typically suffer an 80F pool, but 77 is misery and I can't get a good workout and while I am not actively training now, when I do I have historically trained bloody freaking hard. Heat dissipation goes up radically with aspect ratio, so it is *much* worse for skinny folks. The ratio of surface are to volume also INCRESES as volume decreases so small folks, and especially children have it much worse. If kids (like < 13 y.o.) train in the pool, it should probably not be below 82 F.  

    'hope this helps!

  • Maybe instead of a shorty wetsuit…a full-length one with arms and legs?


  • I wear a neoprene swim cap even in the indoor pool, I shiver otherwise. Works great!

  • This is a great list! It has always surprised me how well a warm drink can actually help. 

  • Definitely keep moving. Stretch, have cap/goggles on, and be ready to swim before you jump in. Have a plan for your workout (if swimming solo) or discuss with your coach (if with a group) so you can go quickly from one set to the next. Consider an easy 50 in between sets rather than hanging on the wall. Reward yourself with a nice hot shower post-swim!

  • tell me about it!!  there is no reason for pooltemps to be below 80.  it did mr in at nationals this summer. there are pools i will no longer compete in and the worst was the  pool at the NEM  championships.  terrible setting, officials and management don't listen to you so my comment to them is *** YOU!!!  incredibly moronic group.  i;ve been at this for 40 years and as i age , keeping warm is more difficult.  i'm 5'8,159 lbs. and 12% body fat.  pay attention you meet organizers.

  • I swim outdoors all year in an 80 degree pool too. I bought a sleeveless wetsuit top to wear when the temp is 50 or below. - it seems to help quite a bit. I can stop without shivering and my fingers don't get numb in the cold.  I also wear a TYR Warm  cap- it keeps my head warmer than silicone caps. May try a long sleeve wetsuit top for below 40 weather :-)

  • I googled “3mm spring wetsuits “ and got a few hits. If you can’t find one, agree that a full suit is a good option, especially if it’s for triathlon, as they’re easier to remove.

  • Someone other than me freezes in cold water! I have 5% body fat and approach hypothermia by the end of my training sessions which last 1 1/2 hrs. - 1 45 min. People erroneously believe the fallacy swimmers like cold water, no we don't. When In cold water my muscles get tight, I'm shivering, turning blue and not motivated. After stretching I stand on the pool deck starring at the pool delaying getting into ice cold water to train. I also run competitively and that's when you want cool temperatures so your body can expel heat. Being submerged in cold water pulls body heat from you 25% faster than air temp. and that increases when swimming longer and faster. The pool water temp. where I train is extremely cold! I have repeatedly asked the Club Mgr. to raise the thermostat, to no avail! The water temp. sensor was installed in the wrong location & records water temp. going into the pool not returning to the heating unit so there's 3 degree difference between the temp. the thermostat is set & the actual pool temp. The thermostat is set at 82 but the actual pool temp. is 79. Finally we have a Club Mgr. who (slightly) raised the thermostat so now the pool temp. is cold/edgy. Previously I was wearing a full 3mm wetsuit. If you are looking to get a wetsuit do an Internet Search for either  "wetsuit World" or "Wetsuit Warehouse" located in Hagerstown, MD, that's where I purchased my wetsuit. The problem with wearing a wetsuit too often is you loose the "feel" for the water and "feel" for stroke mechanics. I wouldn't drink any warm fluids while training because you'll be rushing to the bathroom between intervals. My suggestion is to Complain, Complain and Complain! Tell the Pool Mgr., or Facility Mgr.  your medical condition and request they raise the water a "mere" 2 degrees. If they don't, keep going to the "higher ups" i.e. Board of Directors until someone raises the temp. on the thermostat.  Remember, "Squeaky Wheel gets the Oil"! Before Covid hit, after training I would make a Bee Line straight to the Sauna to stretch and get my core temp. back up. I won't go into the Whirlpool because that is always full of people so after training I head straight to a hot shower to stretch.

  • As Karl said, I find that the cap helps with that first dive into the pool. When I was at my highly cold-water sensitive phase I would jump into a warm shower, go outside and get cold from the evaporation, then jump into the pool for “warmth”. That worked wonders for me.