Something that you hear a lot about Open Water swimming is the acclimatising process. People have all different routines and methods of acclimatising and it really is a personal preference and what works for you. For me, it is not only about acclimatising to the cold but also re-learning to tolerate wearing a wetsuit.
Part of Complex Regional Pain Syndrome is Allodynia, or hypersensitivity. I suffer greatly with this, particularly in my left leg and foot are extremely sensitive and anything touching them hurts me. Wearing trousers hurts, the wind hurts, water on them hurts and a wetsuit on them is agony. As a result of this part of my acclimatisation process is desensitisation of my legs so I can learn to tolerate a wetsuit on my legs.
This year I decided to document this process week by week leading up to the first time I get in open water in 2021.
I started acclimatising in the way most people do; cold showers! Gradually over the week my morning showers got colder and colder, not pleasant but on the plus side – they woke me up!
To help me with getting ready to attempt wearing a wetsuit for the first time in months I started to wear trousers every day, no matter my pain levels. This can be incredibly painful but it gets me used to having something touching my legs continuously.
In week 2 I added to my daily routine of cold showers and wearing trousers every day. I began using Capcasin Cream, which is effectively crushed chilli-peppers. This cream helps with the desensitisation by causing an intense burning pain. By increasing my normal pain levels it allows me to learn to tolerate higher pain levels. This, in turn, means that I can tolerate the lower pain levels I get caused by wearing a wetsuit.
Week 3 was supposed to be all about finally getting the wetsuit on! I was to continue with my cold showers, wearing leggings or trousers. I also planned to increase the number of times I used Capcasin Cream to twice daily instead of just once and I was finally going to get my wetsuit on for the first time in months! Sadly, this didn’t happen due to having my Covid19 Vaccine.
Week 3 aka week 4
I had my first Covid19 vaccination on 22nd March and ended up having a pretty bad reaction to it meaning I couldn’t do anything all week. As a result I ended up having to an extra week of desensitising so that I could manage to get my wetsuit on for a reasonable amount of time! I continues with my cold showers, wearing leggings, trousers and socks and increased the use of Capcasin Cream to twice a day. I also put my wetsuit on for the first time in months, I built up the time that I was wearing it for until I could wear it for a full evening – I think the take away bloke thought I had lost the plot when I answered the door in a wetsuit!
All that was left was for me to get back into the water and on the 30th March I FINALLY got into the river and it was absolutely amazing!