Flight or Fight in the Ice?  Learn How From Ger Kennedy

Flight or Fight in the Ice? Learn How From Ger Kennedy

Courtesy of WOWSA, The Olympic Club, San Francisco, California.

Irish ice swimmer Ger Kennedy will be one of the featured speakers at the upcoming WOWSA Talks & WOWSA Awards at The Olympic Club in San Francisco on November 9th – 11th. His talk is entitled Flight or Fight in the Ice.

The tough Irishman will explain in detail his preparations to swim 2 km in 0.5°C water and air temperatures of -15°C in Russia under the International Ice Swimming Association rules. “From my experience, knowing how difficult and painful the recovery is in 0°C water really challenges one’s mental strength and desire to push your limits or not.”

He will describe his fight-or-flight response on the day of his swim and how he handled the acute stress response and physiological reactions that occurred in response to the frigid conditions. He also will show a video on his re-warming recovery process and explain the requisite protocols that are taken to avoid serious injury or death as well as the after effects of his swim.

He explains, “Before the winter starts well in Northern Hemisphere, I have written a few training plans for potential Ice Swimmers to achieve their goals.”

Kennedy also has written training programs for completing a 1 km ice swim in sub-3°C water, a 1 km ice swim in 0°C – 1°C water, to progress from an Ice Kilometer to an Ice Mile, and from an Ice Mile to an Ice Mile Zero.

Progressing from an Open Water Swimmer to Ice Swimmer

The basics required:
* No wetsuit
* Be a competent swimmer in open water in 14-16°C water and well able to swim 1000 meters in under 25 minutes

Program to Achieve 1000m in 4°C to 4.9°C in a 25-50m Pool, Lake or Sea

* Good medical conditions with no heart or blood pressure conditions
* A certain type of body or specific Body Mass Index is not required
* Determination
* Follow the rules of the International Ice Swimming Association (www.internationaliceswimming.com)

12-week Program to Transition from an Open Water Swimmer to an Ice Swimmer

Week 1
* Swim in the sea or lake one early morning per week just after dawn, preferably with others. The distance is short – approximately 400 meters in 13-14°C water temperatures or lower
* Walk or hike with not so warm clothes to acclimatize the body’s respiratory system and cold air tolerance
* Swim 500 meters on Saturday or Sunday in a lake or in the sea, preferably with others, in 13-14°C water temperatures
* Train in a pool twice a week in a masters swim session to maintain strength and stamina in the water
* To kick start the human body’s own central heating, try less central heating in your home, fewer warm clothes, coldish showers, and use air conditioning during the winter
* Routine is a must to prepare the body for lower water temperatures

Week 2
* Swim in the sea or lake one early morning per week just after dawn, preferably with others. The distance is short – approximately 400 meters in 13-14°C water temperatures or lower
* Walk or hike with not so warm clothes to acclimatize the body’s respiratory system and cold air tolerance
* Swim 500 meters on Saturday or Sunday in a lake or in the sea, preferably with others, in 13-14°C water temperatures
* Train in a pool twice a week in a masters swim session to maintain strength and stamina in water
* Buy a basic digital thermometer with a probe (inexpensive on eBay) to monitor your sea/lake average temperature and log

Week 3
* Swim in the sea or lake one early morning per week just after dawn, preferably with others. The distance is short – approximately 500 meters in 12-13°C water temperatures or slightly lower
* Walk or hike with not so warm clothes to acclimatize the body’s respiratory system and cold air tolerance
* Swim 600 meters on Saturday or Sunday in a lake or in the sea, preferably with others, in 12-13°C water temperatures
* Train in a pool twice a week in a masters swim session to maintain strength and stamina in water
* Invest in simple warm clothes that you can easily put on, thermal socks, simple footwear preferably without laces, thermal hat and gloves
* Shaking or a “good rattle” is OK as your body is reacting correctly to the cold water

Week 4
* Swim in the sea or lake one early morning per week just after dawn, preferably with others. The distance is short – approximately 500 meters in 12-13°C water temperatures or lower
* Walk or hike with not so warm clothes to acclimatize the body’s respiratory system and cold air tolerance
* Swim 600 meters on Saturday or Sunday in a lake or in the sea, preferably with others, in 12-13°C water temperatures
* Train in a pool twice a week in a masters swim session to maintain strength and stamina in water
* Take a brisk walk after your swim, followed by a hot drink from flask, to help turn on the body’s natural central heating

Week 5
* Swim in the sea or lake one early morning per week just after dawn, preferably with others. The distance is short – approximately 500 meters in 11-12°C water temperatures or lower
* Walk or hike with not so warm clothes to acclimatize the body’s respiratory system and cold air tolerance
* Swim 600 meters on Saturday or Sunday in a lake or in the sea, preferably with others, in 11-12°C water temperatures
* Train in a pool twice a week in a masters swim session to maintain strength and stamina in water
* Start reducing the heating in your car and home. Even use air conditioning as this hardens and tempers the body’s will to instill a deep tolerance for lower temperatures

Week 6
* Swim in the sea or lake one early morning per week just after dawn, preferably with others. The distance is short – approximately 500 meters in 11-12°C water temperatures or lower
* Walk or hike with not so warm clothes to acclimatize the body’s respiratory system and cold air tolerance
* Swim 600 meters on Saturday or Sunday in a lake or in the sea, preferably with others, in 11-12°C water temperatures
* Train in a pool twice a week in a masters swim session to maintain strength and stamina in water
* Saturday and Sunday swims are now required. Try and stay around and let the body naturally heat up

Week 7
* Swim in the sea or lake one early morning per week just after dawn, preferably with others. The distance is short – approximately 600 meters in 9-10°C water temperatures or lower
* Walk or hike with not so warm clothes to acclimatize the body’s respiratory system and cold air tolerance
* Swim 600 meters on Saturday or Sunday in a lake or in the sea, preferably with others, in 9-10°C water temperatures
* Train in a pool twice a week in a masters swim session to maintain strength and stamina in water
* Experience your first taste of single-digit water temperatures
* Have clothes ready and laid out in order of putting back on. You could introduce some thermal long johns or similar

Week 8
* Swim in the sea or lake one early morning per week just after dawn, preferably with others. The distance is short – approximately 600 meters in 9-10°C water temperatures or lower
* Walk or hike with not so warm clothes to acclimatize the body’s respiratory system and cold air tolerance
* Swim 700 meters on Saturday or Sunday in a lake or in the sea, preferably with others, in 9-10°C water temperatures
* Train in a pool twice a week in a masters swim session to maintain strength and stamina in water
* As the distances are increasing, hone your skills of self-supporting yourself after your swims

Week 9
* Swim in the sea or lake one early morning per week just after dawn, preferably with others. The distance is short – approximately 600 meters in 8-9°C water temperatures or lower
* Walk or hike with not so warm clothes to acclimatize the body’s respiratory system and cold air tolerance
* Swim 700 meters on Saturday or Sunday in a lake or in the sea, preferably with others, in 8-9°C water temperatures
* Train in a pool twice a week in a masters swim session to maintain strength and stamina in water
* As the water temperatures lowers again, have your course ready before you get in – not GPS staying close to shore with lots of get-out options
* Your arms will feel heavy in water; try to maintain a strong catch back to hip

Week 10
* Swim in the sea or lake one early morning per week just after dawn, preferably with others. The distance is short – approximately 600 meters in 7-8°C water temperatures or lower
* Walk or hike with not so warm clothes to acclimatize the body’s respiratory system and cold air tolerance
* Swim 800 meters on Saturday or Sunday in a lake or in the sea, preferably with others, in 7-8°C water temperatures
* Train in a pool twice a week in a masters swim session to maintain strength and stamina in water
* The early morning swims are the hardest just after dawn; you really have to want this and be disciplined with your preparation. Train with good positive people

Week 11
* Swim in the sea or lake one early morning per week just after dawn, preferably with others. The distance is short – approximately 600 meters in 7-8°C water temperatures or lower
* Walk or hike with not so warm clothes to acclimatize the body’s respiratory system and cold air tolerance
* Swim 900 meters on Saturday and 700 meters on Sunday in a lake or in the sea, preferably with others, in 7-8°C water temperatures with a maximum time in the water of 25 minutes
* Train in a pool twice a week in a masters swim session to maintain strength and stamina in water
* On Saturday, increase distance and adjust to the changes happening to your stroke
* Hot baths will relax your body and your cold sensitive areas
* Your fingers and toes will suffer more so have thermal socks and gloves ready after getting out of the water
* Don’t drive straight after cold water swimming. Try to relax and enjoy a good rattle

Week 12 (final)
* Swim in the sea or lake one early morning per week just after dawn, preferably with others. The distance is short – approximately 600 meters in 7-8°C water temperatures or lower
* Walk or hike with not so warm clothes to acclimatize the body’s respiratory system and cold air tolerance
* Swim 1000 meters on Saturday and 500 meters on Sunday in a lake or in the sea, preferably with others, in 6-7°C water temperatures with a maximum time in the water of 25 minutes
* Train in a pool twice a week in a masters swim session to maintain strength and stamina in water
* Do a 1000 meter swim on Saturday as a test; have a second person for support and rewarming assistance
* Set your course set, have your clothes ready, have a second ready and your plan ready
* Once achieved, discuss with your second about any areas that could be improved
* You are now ready to swim 1000m under 5°C
* Your second should be with you all the way until your official Ice Kilometer
* Follow all rules and Ice Kilometer qualification process plus obtain a compulsory medical check

To meet and listen to Kennedy at the WOWSA Talks & WOWSA Awards, visit here.

In addition to Kennedy’s Extreme Ice Mile 2 km, 10 Ice Miles, 6 Ice Kilometers done since 2013 across Europe, North America, the Polar regions, Africa and Asia, he has done a Polar Ice Mile and two Ice Mile Zero and participated in the Tyumen Cup in Siberia, the Winter Swimming World Championships, the 1st World Ice Swimming Championships in Russia, the 2nd World Ice Swimming Championships in Germany, an Ice Kilometer in Lake Balea, Romania at an altitude of 2,040 meters and a number of other events from the UK to Latvia and Poland.

Official Ice Miles by Ger Kennedy:
1st: February 2013 in Lough Dan, Co. Wicklow, Ireland in 3.3°C water, 1 mile in 40 minutes
2nd: February 2014 in Lough Dan, Co. Wicklow, Ireland in 3.3°C water, 1.02 miles in 37 minutes 5 seconds
3rd: March 2014 in Lough Dan, Co. Wicklow, Ireland in 3.3°C water, 1.3 miles in 51 minutes 10 seconds
4th: February 2015 in Grand Canal Dock, Dublin City, Ireland in 4.8°C water, 1 mile in 36 minutes 15 seconds
5th: January 2016 in Wild Water Armagh, Ireland in 0.77°C water, 1 mile in 32 minutes 30 seconds
6th: March 2017 in Mikkelvik Brygge, Norway in 2.53°C water, 1.0 mile in 34 minutes 5 seconds
7th: December 2017 in Tyumen, Siberia, Russia in 0.5°C water (with -18.80°C wind chill), 1.25 miles in 43 minutes 10 seconds
8th: January 2018 in Lake Ouiouane, Khenifra, Morocco in 3.77°C water, 1.04 miles in 37 minutes 10 seconds at 1630 meters above sea level
9th: February 2018 in M Street Beach, Boston, USA in 4.77°C water, 1 mile in 32 minutes 15 seconds
10th: March 2018 in Dublin, Ireland in 4.7°C water, 1.1 miles in 34 minutes 13 seconds

To meet and listen to Ger Kennedy and other luminaries in the sport at The Olympic Club in San Francisco, register here.

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