In this guest blog post, MySwimPro Ambassador Beth Nymeyer shares her swimming journey, including how she got started ice swimming during the COVID-19 pandemic.
I am a 38-year-old swimmer and mom of 2 kids from Minneapolis, Minnesota, USA. I have been coaching or teaching swimming for over 20 years on 2 continents. I have also worked in triathlon race management, the nonprofit field and ESL teaching. I have a creative side and I make jewelry and stickers I sell locally, too. Most of my friends know me as the chatty one!
I swam in high school on club and high school teams but I started masters swimming when I was 25 in Wroclaw, Poland. I have been swimming masters ever since! I specialize in sprint freestyle (the only time I have made the USMS top ten rankings!), but I also like a good IM workout as well.
This summer I completed a 5 mile (about 8k) swim across Lake Minnetonka as part of a great summer of lake swimming that started in April through October for serious outside mileage and November until now for colder water swims.
How I Train with MySwimPro
Before I started using MySwimPro, I just did the workout my coach gave me. I didn’t have a great way to track or organize my workouts or practice times. I also swam in open water without tracking.
Now, I use MySwimPro to track all of my open water swims and masters workouts. I love that you can just hit “pool swim” and your masters workout and splits will automatically show up in the app afterward. I like to take a look at my heart rate, strokes per length and splits after practice to see how I am doing. When I swim on my own, I’ll pick a workout from MySwimPro’s Workout Library for some variety.
Consistently tracking with the app helps me see the big picture and just being in the water as much as possible (even the freezing water) helps. I will be able to go back and compare all of my swims with each other going forward, which is amazing.
My Swimming Goals
My goal for 2020-2021 is to swim outside in ALL seasons (and I live in Minnesota!). I started at “Ice Out” in April as a way to get outdoor exercise, which has always been permitted in my state and never stopped during the pandemic. My biggest months for distance happened in July and August when I was getting over 20k per week because the weather was so nice.
At the moment it’s 12 degrees Fahrenheit and the lakes are frozen over, so I am ice dipping with a couple friends for safety. A hole is cut in the ice waist deep and we have worked up to 12 minutes depending on the air temperature.
We managed to swim in open water up until December 24, 2020, racing against the impending freeze of the lake. When ice out happens this spring I plan on slowly ramping up for distance and time in the water. I prefer to swim without a wetsuit, but I will swim with one if I want to go for a longer swim.
Why I Love Ice Swimming
Many people ask us “What are you doing?” or “Are you crazy?” The answer is, “ice swimming or dipping” and, “no we aren’t crazy!” To be frank: we swim because we love to swim and the time in the cold water creates a natural high that is amazing. “The lakes are always open,” is my motto.
Swimming in the middle of the lake in near freezing temperatures and watching snow falling is a surreal experience. Even with the pandemic shutdowns, we were able to get outside, which helped us to realize what a gift being outdoors was for our swimming and mental health.
Being consistent with our lake swims (4-7 days per week) helps too, especially with temperature variance. It also made us “warm” weather chasers. “Warm” in a Minnesota winter is anything above 32F/0c.
Our pod of swimmers took necessary precautions to make sure we had warm tea, warm clothes and a warm car to slowly warm up in when we’re finished. It’s amazing to experience the water in all seasons. We would love to participate in Ice Swimming Championships when it’s safe to travel again.
Also shoutout to my kids who have come to the winter swimming with me and played in the snow!
My Tips for New Ice Swimmers
If you are interested in cold water swimming or dipping do some research first. If you have health concerns always consult a doctor.
- Never go alone: Cold water (as well as regular open water) can be dangerous. Swim with people you trust.
- Start small: Start with a 1 minute dip and work up.
- Try neoprene: I personally like neoprene on my feet because feet don’t get much circulation. So neoprene booties for me!
- Go slowly: Don’t jump in — get in slowly. If you want to get your head wet do it last.
- Warm up: Bring warm clothes and warm water or tea to slowly warm from the inside out afterward. Put your hands in your armpits to warm up!
I think this pandemic has made many of us realize that we swim for mental health, not just physical health. It allows us to disconnect, even for a second, from everyday life and become one with the water (that sounds cheesy, but I know many of us feel like sea creatures!). Swimming can have many purposes: competition, to explore, to get healthy and to escape plus many, many more.