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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

How Do You Pee And Poop During An Open Water Swim?

Open water swimmers hydrate and eat before getting in the water. They can continue to hydrate and eat while they are in the water, whether it is in training, during a marathon swim or in the middle of a channel swim.

Like many young swimmers in a pool, Open water swimmers often feel the need to relieve themselves, either number 1 or number 2. Some can do so easily; others have a much harder time.

Physiologically, it is natural to feel the need to relieve yourself in the water for a variety of reasons: your bladder is full, you must do a bowel movement, the water is warm, or merely the excitement of the challenge.

Open Water Source asked dozens of experienced open water swimmers about this urination and defecation that marathon swimmers talk about in the Marathon Swimmers Forum, but tend to discuss only with their close friends:

1. Have you ever felt the need to urinate while swimming in the open water?
2. If so, how often? Every time, frequently, occasionally or rarely?
3. Have you relieved yourself while swimming in the open water?
4. Is it difficult or easy for you to relieve yourself in the open water?
5. How exactly do you relieve yourself?
6. Have you ever NOT relieved yourself even though you felt a need? If so, why?
7. After your swim or race, do you feel the need to relieve yourself?

The answers – from men and women, young or older – were not surprisingly similar whether or not the individual was a marathon swimmer or a short-distance open water swimmer (i.e., under 3 km). It appears that nearly everyone does it - or has most definitely felt the need to urinate and occasionally defacate while swimming.

For most swimmers, a reduction in their kick is all it takes. Some swimmers go from a four- or six-beat kick down to a two-beat kick and are able to urinate without any problems. Other swimmers need to stop kicking and concentrate while they let their legs drag. Others completely drop of their hips or stop altogether and go vertical to urinate. A few cannot urinate at all due to either the water being too cold or the proximity of a support crew or officials of the opposite gender prevent them from psychologically going in front of other people.

Dr. Larry Weisenthal, an avid open water swimmer from Huntington Beach, California, explains that the bladder can hold up to about 500 ml of urine. Generally, humans start to want to urinate after the bladder reaches the 200-250 ml range.

His daughter and a fast 8 hour 33 minute English Channel swimmer Laurin Weisenthal described urinating in cold water can be difficult. "Your whole body is tightening up from the cold, so relaxing the required muscles requires effort. Plus, you are still working to swim forward and to generate heat. The effort of the initial 'starting to go' phase requires at least a slowing down of forward propulsion activities, if not outright cessation [in some cases]."

As Dr. Weisenthal explains, "Urine comes from the blood via the kidneys [so] it is nice and warm. Probably warmer than the blood of a swimmer who is fighting hypothermia. Kind of like a nice little hot water bottle, inside your body."

Marathon swimmers who have experienced the beginning stages of hypothermia have problems urinating because the bladder and kidney start to shut down in the early stages of hypothermia. The experienced open water swimmers agreed that cold water does often require a more focused approach. As one swimmer explained, "In cold water, [urination] is a lot more challenging. I slow my kick and use a combination of pushing, clenching, and relaxing my lower abdominal muscles to start urinating. Once I've started, I drag my legs and totally relax my lower body to make sure I don't "lose it" before I'm fully done. The colder the water and the longer I've been in it, the harder it is."

Conversely, many swimmers find that as their body temperature increases, the ease of being able to urinate also increases. Many have no problem whatsoever in warm-water conditions. "I adjust my leg position a little bit and pause for a brief second [and go]."

Another swimmer explains, "In shorter races, while it's nothing I plan in advance, if the situation does arise I don't hesitate and…I always receive a psychological boost from the momentary feeling of warmth in my swimsuit. It's kind of like swimming through a warm spot."

Triathletes and multi-sport athletes face other considerations. One Ironman triathlete explains, "…at the Ironman, I hydrated so well that I actually had to 'go' twice within 2.4 miles and I knew that it would be easier and neater to take care of it while I was still in the water rather than waiting to do so on the bike (which also occurred anyway). Each time I did, I imagined that my bladder, now empty, had gone from neutral buoyancy while full of fluid to positive buoyancy when empty. I imagined myself gaining a bit of the triathlon wetsuit speed effect and, both times, I tossed-in a small surge that propelled me past several other swimmers in the field. As you can see, psychology (i.e. self-deception) is a consideration."

Swimming with a full bladder can be uncomfortable and take away from your enjoyment or speed, especially as your swim increases in length. One veteran swimmer frankly explained the general consensus of the community, "Not peeing when you need to is painful. My stomach hurts, I definitely can't eat or drink anything more, which is really bad when you're doing a long swim...and it's distracting."

Of course, as Dr. Jim Miller, a FINA Sports Medicine committee member and former USA Swimming national open water swimming team physician, says, "No need to practice these techniques during pool workouts."

While urination can be done without anyone else knowing it, a bowel movement is more problematic for a number of reasons. The first reason is usually embarrassment. The second reason is the physical environment of defecation while treading water.

Because no one wants to watch another person "release the brown trout", swimmers are usually quite embarrassed about this normal human function while everyone is watching them. To get around this problem, swimmers usually inform their escorts and crew that they must go. The escorts and crew usually politely turn their heads or go to the other side of the boat in order to allow the swimmer a few moments (or minutes) of privacy. Although there are a few isolated cases of curiosity, the crew should create an environment where the swimmer is afforded as much privacy as possible in an open body of water. This privacy is usually not a problem at night, but sometimes a bowel movement comes at the most inopportune times during broad daylight.

Bowel movements (defecation) are usually done as one can in the open water. It is never the most elegant position to find oneself, but the swimsuit is usually pulled either to the side or slipped down the legs in order for nature takes its course. For some, it is a simple matter of floating and letting go. For others, it takes a significant amount of concentration and effort, both of which are required to an even greater degree because of the embarrassment factor and the fact they are treading water.

Some people prefer to keep their head above water when defecating, but others must hold their breath and stick their head under the water as they curl up in the fetal position in order to get rid of the bodily waste. It can take more than a few efforts, and as time passes, the embarrassment quotient is usually elevated. But with an understanding crew and patience, the waste is usually successfully discharged. It is recommended that goggles remain on so the swimmer can quickly swim away when the act of defecation is completed.

It is strongly recommended, especially in a longer swim, to do the bowel movement as necessary instead of waiting and suffering. Trying to hold it in with the hope that the need for defecation will go away usually does not work. Gradually dealing with the initial discomfort and, possibly later, the pain of not defecating is not a wise move. A person on land would not wait and suffer, and neither should an open water swimmer.

So, go if you must [in the open water]. And, go if you can.

Copyright © 2013 by World Open Water Swimming Association

1 comment:

  1. Great post. Very helpful, especially in relation to positioning, and with leaving your goggles on for quick departure.


Thank you very much for your interest in the world of open water swimming.

The Staff of the World Open Water Swimming Association

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference

Learn more...
Courtesy of WOWSA, Huntington Beach, California.

2014 Global Open Water Swimming Conference Agenda

Friday, 19 September



Welcome Reception at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland

Documentary films shown throughout the reception:

Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa – Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way
(film by Bruckner Chase)

Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain
(film by Wayne Ewing about Matthew Moseley's Lake Pontchartrain crossing)

Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska
(film by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko about the relay between Russia and Alaska)

The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau
(film about Simon Holiday's Pearl River Delta crossing)

Saturday, 20 September



Registration and Coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Keynote Speech:
Colleen Blair (Scotland) on The History of Scottish Swimming



Christopher Guesdon (Australia) on Multidimensional Roles In The Sport



Colin Hill (England) on Recent Explosion in UK Open Water



Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) on The Feminine Code of Achievement - How a Lady from Down Under Revolutionized Professional Marathon Swimming



Simon Murie (England) on Open Water Swimming Holidays: How A New Sector Was Created Within The Travel Industry



Swimming The Oceans Seven
A round table discussion moderated by:
Kevin Murphy (England), with Stephen Redmond (Ireland), Anna-Carin Nordin (Sweden),
Darren Miller (USA), Adam Walker (England), Kimberley Chambers (New Zealand)



Coffee and Break



World Open Water Swimming Awards Luncheon:
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA)

Pádraig Mallon (Ireland), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year

Olga Kozydub (Russia), 2013 World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year

Bering Strait Swim, 2013 World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year

Honoring: Vladimir Chegorin, Maria Chizhova, Elena Guseva, Ram Barkai, Jack Bright, Oksana Veklich, Aleksandr Jakovlevs, Matías Ola, Henri Kaarma, Toomas Haggi, Nuala Moore, Anne Marie Ward, Toks Viviers, Melissa O’Reilly, Ryan Stramrood, Cristian Vergara, Craig Lenning, Rafal Ziobro, Andrew Chin, Jackie Cobell, James Pittar, Paolo Chiarino, Mariia Yrjö-Koskinen, Ivan Papulshenko, Zdenek Tlamicha, Zhou Hanming, Oleg Adamov, Andrei Agarkov, Alekseev Semen, Tatiana Alexandrova, Roman Belan, Elena Semenova, Alexander Brylin, Afanasii Diackovskii, Vladimir Nefatov, Evgenii Dokuchaev, Oleg Docuckaev, Roman Efimov, Dmitrii Filitovich, Olga Filitovich, Victor Godlevskiy, Olga Golubeva, Alexei Golubkin, Alexander Golubkin, Alexandr Iurkov, Oleg Ivanov, Pavel Kabakov, Eduard Khodakovskiy, Aleksandr Komarov, Aleksandr Kuliapin, Andrey Kuzmin, Irina Lamkina, Vladimir Litvinov, Andrey Mikhalev, Victor Moskvin, Nikolay Petshak, Sergey Popov, Vladimir Poshivailov, Grigorii Prokopchuk, Dmitrii Zalka, Natalia Seraya, Viacheslav Shaposhnikov, Olga Sokolova, Andrei Sychev, Alexei Tabakov, and Nataliia Usachaeva [represented by Admiral Konstantin Sidenko and Nuala Moore]



Alexey Salmin Pavlovich (Russia) and Dmitry Dragozhilov (Russia)
on the 2016 Winter Swimming World Championships [film]



Sally Minty-Gravett (Jersey) on Motivating Swimmers



Dmitry Blokhin (Russia) and Aleksei Veller (Russia)
on the First World Ice Swimming Championships [film]



Matthew Moseley (USA)’s Dancing With The Water, Crossing of Lake Pontchartrain [film]



Simon Holliday (England) and Doug Woodring (Hong Kong)’s The Clean Swim – Hong Kong to Macau 2014 [film]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
and International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame (IMSHOF)

IMSHOF Induction Ceremonies and Dinner
with co-hosts Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia) and Steven Munatones (USA).

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Elizabeth Fry (USA), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Vojislav Mijić (Serbia), IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • James Anderson (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Dr. Jane Katz (USA), IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Indonesian Swimming Federation Open Water Committee (Indonesia), IMSHOF Honour Organisation

  • Melissa Cunningham (Australia), Irving Davids – Captain Roger Wheeler Award by the International Swimming Hall of Fame and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Sandra Bucha (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

  • Jon Erikson (USA), ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer [represented by Sandra Bucha]



International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF) Introduction Video.
Welcome speech by host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)






International Swimming Hall of Fame (ISHOF)
Induction Ceremonies and Dinner with host Shelley Taylor-Smith (Australia)

Recognition of International Swimming Hall of Fame honorees:

  • Mercedes Gleitze (England)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by daughter Doloranda Pember]

  • Dale Petranech (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Contributer and IMSHOF Honour Administrator

  • Claudio Plit (Argentina)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Shelley Taylor-Smith]

  • Judith van Berkel-de Nijs (Netherlands)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by Niek Kloots]

  • George Young (Canada)
    ISHOF Honor Pioneer Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer
    [represented by the Catalina Channel Swimming Federation]

  • David Yudovin (USA)
    ISHOF Honor Open Water Swimmer and IMSHOF Honour Swimmer

Sunday, 21 September



Registration and coffee at Mount Stuart House, Isle of Bute, Scotland



Nuala Moore (Ireland) on The Mindset of 1000m at 0ºC



Admiral Konstantin Sidenko (Russia)’s Bering Strait Swim Chukotka - Alaska in 2013 [film]



Ned Denison (Ireland) on Swimming The World



Bruckner Chase (USA)’s Blue Journey-Amerika Samoa
Stronger Together: The Waterman’s Way



Rok Kerin (Slovenia) on Lifestyle Benefits From Open Water Swimming



Survey distribution and group photo-taking



Swim at Stravvana Bay, Isle of Bute


The Global Open Water Swimming Conference is a conference on the sport of open water swimming, marathon swimming and swimming during triathlons and multi-sport endurance events.

The conference which has been attended by enthusiasts and luminaries from 6 continents, is devoted to providing information about the latest trends, race tactics, training techniques, equipment, psychological preparation, race organization and safety practices used in the sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons.

The conference's mission is to provide opportunities to listen and meet many of the world's most foremost experts in open water swimming, and to meet and discuss the sport among swimmers, coaches, administrators, event organizers, sponsors, vendors, officials, escort pilots, and volunteers from kayakers to safety personnel.

Dozens of presentations at the 2014 Conference at the Mount Stuart House cover numerous aspects of the vast and growing world of open water swimming where attendees can learn and share the latest trends, race tactics, training modalities, swimming techniques, equipment, race organization, logistics, operations, and safety practices for open water swimming as a solo swimmer, competitive athlete, fitness swimmer, masters swimmer, triathlete, multi-sport athlete, administrator, race promoter, sponsor or referee.

The conference was first held in Long Beach, California as part of the 2010 USA Swimming National Open Water Swimming Championships. It has since been held on the Queen Mary in California, at Columbia University and the United Nations in New York City, and in Cork, Ireland. This year in September, it comes to another iconic location, the Mount Stuart House on the Isle of Bute in Scotland.

"The Global Open Water Swimming Conference was started due to the desire and need for athletes, coaches, referees, administrators, race directors, promoters and sponsors from around the world to share, collect and learn information about the growing sports of open water swimming, marathon swimming and triathlons," said founder Steven Munatones. "Other swimming conferences usually offering nothing on open water swimming or perhaps a speech or two, but we thought open water swimming deserves its own global conference. It is great that the community shares its information via the online social network, but there is nothing like meeting other open water swimming enthusiasts face-to-face and talking about the sport from morning to night."

Speakers at the conference include English Channel swimmers, ice swimmers, record holders, renowned coaches, world champions, professional marathon swimmers, renowned race directors, officials and administrators from the Africa, Americas, Asia, Europe and Oceania.

"Because the audience is passionate and educated about the sport and its finest practitioners, the Global Open Water Swimming Conference is also the location of the induction ceremonies for the International Marathon Swimming Hall of Fame and the annual WOWSA Awards that recognize the World Open Water Swimming Man of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Woman of the Year, the World Open Water Swimming Performance of the Year, and the World Open Water Swimming Offering of the Year. Special Lifetime Achievement Awards are also occasionally presented to individuals who have made significant contributions to the sport over their career."

Copyright © 2014 by World Open Water Swimming Association

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The Open Water Swimming Magazine is the monthly magazine entirely focused on open water swimming heroes and heroines of every age, ability, and background. Published by the World Open Water Swimming Association, the Open Water Swimming Magazine is a free benefit to WOWSA members.

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An Almanac for Open Water Swimming

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