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How can I increase resistance to the cold?

Thread Status: Hello , There was no answer in this thread for more than 60 days.
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Apnea Carp
Oct 11, 2003
I have a big problem which is seriously affecting my training. I just can't tolerate cold water, and any temperature below 31C is too cold for me even with a 3mm suit. I start shivering violently and turn disturbingly blue. It feels awful to get in the pool, and it seriously affects my performance - my max dry static time is 1:32 less than my max static in the pool, and I can't push myself because in this state there is a high risk of of passing out. It also looks terrible when I start shaking during a static, and makes it very difficult for my buddy to tell if I am OK.

Even though other freedivers in the pool sometimes complain about the cold, and they don't always have a suit, I have never seen anyone suffering as much as myself. Some of my training sessions feel as if they are battles to overcome shivering, sometimes to the point where my main reason for surfacing is unbearable cold rather than the need for air.

This problem started about a year ago - before that I was able to work outdoors in very cold weather with no problems, and I have never been someone who feels the cold much until now. It also happens to a lesser extent out of the water. There was no incident or illness which started the problem, as far as I can remember.

It is not set off or made worse by holding my breath - even if I stay on the surface the whole time, it becomes very unpleasant. I recover quickly afterwards, even if I have to get home in cold weather, but there isn't any sign of increasing resistance.

I am in good health and have not made any major changes to my diet or lifestyle over the time this has happened. It started before I started freediving, so I don't think holding my breath is the cause of the problem. I don't feel weak, tired or stressed, and have not lost weight.

It would be a huge relief to find out what has gone wrong and what I can do about it.

Any ideas would be welcome.

I assume you are eating plenty of omega-3 fatty acids? (flax oil, cold water fish oil, hempseed oil)

What fraction of your diet is fat? How many calories are you eating per day?

Have you been exposed to any environmental toxins in the last year? (anything from paint, to heavy metals, excessive chlorine, chemical fumes, etc..)

Have you smoked, or are you exposed to second hand smoke?

Have you had your thryoid checked lately? You could be hypothyroid or hyperthyroid.

Check your oral temperature frequently with a digital thermometer. That will give us a way better indicator. It will tell us if your body temperature is actually low (cold), or if you just feel cold with a normal body temperature. When checking your oral temp, make sure you don't eat or drink for 30 minutes before.

Most people start shivering at 36.0 to 36.5C. With training you can lower your shivering threshold to 35.0 to 35.5C.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada
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I should've known the E-man was on the job.

One tends to feel like a cop showing up at the crime scene with a pair of cuffs...after Superman has tied the perpetrators up with thier own machine guns, whenever EFattah gets the first word in. HA HA!

I just wanted to mention that I second the hypo/hyper thyroid notion. I was going to point out the possibility after I read the thread title.

I "supposedly" have hypothyroid problems, even though I've never suffered from them. But since I was a tadpole, the nurse always asked if I shivered in mild conditions.

I've always been warm-natured, and once thought it was because my hefty layer of "winter/baby/movie popcorn with extra salt and extra butter" fat.

I've lost over 45 to 50 lbs of flab this summer, and my decent threshold for cold remains virtually the same.

And, as regarding Eric's uncanny first mention, flax seed, a high Omega-3 oil, helped me lose all that weight by helping jump-start and pace my metabolism...also making it easier for my thyroid to process T3 and T4 hormones.

I know from experience the wonderful attributes of Omega-3's. As for the thyroid, it's probably one of the most important glands you have.

It's good to get it looked at at least once. Any physician can take blood and have your levels evaluated. You may, however want to get the results evaluated by an endocrinologist if your physician shows concern or wants to start you on a synthyroid suppliment.

Of course, Dr. sinkweight would say, "Have you considered moving to the Caribbean?"
More to the list.

Have you checked for anemia since then?

Have you tried eating a sugary thing before exposing yourself to the cold conditions? Won't solve the problem, but if it works it might help telling what it is.
When i was younger (let's say 25 - i'm in my fourty's), i was unable to stay in 26C water during 15 mn without shivering, even if swimming. Now, i usually swim and dive with the minimal equipment (google, nose-clip and bath suit) in the sea, in Bretagne (France), where the water is never more than 20C in august and at the surface, and more often around 17C or less. My average bathing time is about 20mn, and i'm going out the water when my body tells me it's enough coldness for instance (shiver is a good signal).
What has changed ? I'm older, but not really fater. The main change was in my mind : the feeling of entering and staying in cold water was like a pain, against wich i was fighting immediately and during all the time of the bath, and now it's almost a pleasure, until my body says stop, but it lets me some time for the fun. The feeling itself hasn't changed, but i call it pleasant instead of unpleasant (well - easy to say, isn't it ?). Let me compare to a food feeling : when i was young, i hated the taste of beer, now i like it very much, though the taste has not moved, but my mind has moved this taste from unpleasant to pleasant.
Of course, this is not at all the same story as your's, because my feeling of cold water moved from bad to good, and your's moved on the opposite way, but maybe it can help you (i hope).
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Thanks for all the help - I'm always surprised at how much good advice there is on DeeperBlue.

Eric and Michael, to answer your questions:

I am taking Omega-3 supplements, but how much is needed to make a difference?

I don't know what fraction of my diet is fat, or how many calories I am eating, but this has not changed much over the last few years.

I moved to a new home about 18 months ago, so maybe chemical fumes started the problem.

I have not smoked or been exposed to second-hand smoke.

I haven't had my thyroid checked in the last year, but in the past it has always been normal.

I am probably not anemic, but I haven't been tested recently.

Eating sugary foods doesn't seem to make a difference.

How is it possible to lower your shivering threshold? I find it impossible to control - I can now hold my breath well over twice as long as I could when I started, but the shivering thing still defeats me.
eric, why smoke?
i've always wondered what damage i might be doing by inhaling smoke(usually passive). that it might effect cold tolerance is new to me. (have the effects of smoke ever been discussed at lenth on these pages?) cheers
One more thing

Do have your sugar levels checked. The relatively sudden onset would seem to indicate some sort of major change - maybe just stress.

Just an FYI - I dive alot in cold water in just a 3 mil suit. In fact my daughter and I went today - it was cold enough for a brief 'ice-cream' headache. It's odd but I allmost allways feel comfortable while I'm in the water - after the initial shock - it's afterward that the effects of cold are noticeable. (today my daughter stuck her foot in and said ' not bad dad'..a few minutes later she was in and I walked over 'how is it?' 'find dad..' she said - her jaw so tight I could see the muscles:) )If I stay in long enough to start actually feeling cold I know I've pushed to far. days like today we generally only go for 30 minutes or so - I'd say the water was in the 50s F. It's an interesting phenomenon - the feeling comfortable in cold water - but there is a cost later. One day recently the thermalcline was so intense it made the tops of my ears hurt! A few minutes and it felt better - though my chin seemed to get numb if I swam too fast down there. My tolerance - even without the suit - is better than it was when I was younger - I just relax into it - but stay intelligent.
I forgot to explain something. At the time when I started freediving, about a year ago, I used to allow myself to get very cold during training (I didn't have a suit yet :blackeye ). This would cause very violent shivering, and slowing of reaction time, etc.

I wonder if this gave my body the message that instead of waiting for things to get really bad before starting to generate heat, it would be better to start shivering soon after getting in the water to avoid trouble later. By now the shivering seems to have become a conditioned reflex, and it happens even when I am not particularly cold.

If it is possible to increase one's CO2 tolerance and low O2 tolerance by training, and learn to use less O2, then maybe it is possible to train for bad things too. :duh

I might see a doctor about this problem, as I am worried about it.

Doesn't sound inconceivable to me.
Good news is the shivering burns fat quite well (so I think). :)

Is seing a Dr is such a problem in England?
Here it would cost me ~3$ to see a GP as many times I want in a 3 months period and all the blood tests are covered by the medical insurance.
And it's not because Israel is cheap, we just have good medical insurance laws...
I don't know how it is in the UK though, maybe it's a more capitalistic system like in the US....
effects of smoking on cold

to bevan:
smoking contracts the blood vessels, so less blood is going to the extremeties (arms and legs) and you start to feel cold. The extreme form of it is when the blood can't circulate at all in the legs, (smokers leg) and has to be amputated. Alcohol, by the way has the same effect...

greetz dani wisr
Originally posted by DeepThought
Good news is the shivering burns fat quite well (so I think). :)
Maybe that's the problem - I am 173cm and 56kg, so I probably haven't got much fat to burn!

It isn't a problem to see a doctor - in fact I am going today.

I'll let you know what happens...
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The cyanide in smoke creates thiocyanate in your blood, which blocks iodine absorption and makes you hypothyroid, resulting in low body temperatures and poor cold tolerance.

There are other effects as well.

Eric Fattah
BC, Canada

I had a blood test and it turned out that I am anemic, so that is probably what has caused the problem. This must have happened recently, because my last test a few years ago was good.

At least I have an idea of what might be wrong.

Thanks to everyone on this thread - you convinced me to get it checked out, so I can start solving the problem.

Congratulations on (probably) finding the reason for the problem.
Think about it as a good thing, since when you'll get your blood back to normal, you'll probably get an increase in resutls for free. :)

How did the doc. advised you to address this problem? food? supplements?
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I didn't get any advice on what to do about it, but I am trying to find out what to do myself.

The increase in results would be nice!

Unfortunately I can't do any proper static or dynamic training in the pool now, because my health is not good enough and I still haven't got a proper suit.

I am still doing dry static tables and improving my finning technique, duck-dives, etc.

I'll be back soon!

There was a thread regarding anemia and freediving. I think it was posted by samdive. Check it out, I remember there were a few good tips regarding nutrition.
Maybe PM Sam and ask her how it went...

Good Luck.
I saw the thread about anemia and freediving, and even printed it for reference, because it has so many useful tips.

I'll try to change my diet and take supplements, and let you know what happens.

Hi Lucia
only just seen this thread. I am also anaemic and also get very cold very quick ( I wear a 5ml for static training and have just bought a 7ml for the lake!)

I started taking supplements about six months ago. I can't remember the proper term but I take some that are blended with all the right things to help you absorb them. You also need to know what to swallow them with so that they get in to you quicker - apparently pineapple juice is good, so I now have it for breakfast every day. I changed to a cheaper variety of supplement for a while but found that it gave me stomach aches so its worth spending a bit more. I will try and remember to check the brand name for you and let you know.

Anyhow, they definitely work. I check my haemoglobin count occasionly and where it used to pretty low, it is now usually normal (unless I forget the supplements for a few days)

Not sure it has helped my freediving as I haven't really been training myself - just teaching other people. But I definitely feel healthier