The “Ice-Mile”: Case Study of 2 Swimmers’ Selected Physiological Responses and Performance

in International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance
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Purpose:

“Ice-mile” swimming presents significant physiological challenges and potential safety issues, but few data are available. This study examined deep body temperature (BT), respiratory rate (RR), and swim performance in 2 swimmers completing an ice-mile swim of 1 mile (1600 m) in water less than 5°C.

Methods:

Two male cold-water-habituated swimmers completed a 1-mile lake swim in 3.9°C water. For comparative purposes, they completed an indoor 1-mile swim in 28.1°C water. The Equivital physiological monitoring system was used to record BT and RR before, during, and after each swim. Total time to complete the swims and 400-m splits were recorded.

Results:

One swimmer became hypothermic after 27 min while swimming, reaching BT of 33.7°C at swim’s end. On exiting the water the swimmers experienced large BT after-drops of –3.6°C and –2.4°C, reaching low points of 33.2°C and 31.3°C 38 and 23 min postswim, respectively. Respiratory rate and swim pace decreased over the course of the ice-mile swim for both swimmers. Swim pace for 1 swimmer declined sharply in the final 400-m lap of the ice mile when he was hypothermic. Both swimmers remained hypothermic 60 min postswim (34.2°C and 33.4°C).

Conclusion:

Ice-mile swimmers may become hypothermic while swimming, and the postswim BT after drop may expose them to dangerous levels of hypothermia. Pace and RR should be monitored as proxies for a swimmer’s physiological state. Postswim recovery should also be monitored for hypothermia for at least 1 h.

Kenny is with the School of Health and Human Performance, Dublin City University, Dublin, Ireland. Cullen is with the Dept of Health, Sport and Exercise Science, Waterford Institute of Technology, Waterford, Ireland. Warrington is with the Dept of Physical Education and Sport Sciences, University of Limerick, Limerick, Ireland.

Address author correspondence to John Kenny at john.kenny29@mail.dcu.ie.