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Superhuman: The secrets of the ice man

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posted on Feb, 24 2009 @ 04:19 PM

Pugh is far from the first to swim in icy water. There is a long tradition in Russia, China and many northern European countries of carving holes in frozen lakes, rivers or sea ice and diving in, often as part of a cultural or religious ritual. These are normally just quick dips, though: rarely do they involve distance swimming. Japanese and Korean pearl divers used to swim without wetsuits in temperatures of around 10 °C for up to 30 minutes. Part of their secret is their metabolism: the colder the water that Japanese Ama divers swim in during winter months, the higher their resting metabolic rate.

Even so, studies of Japanese Ama divers who have been diving for many years show that their response is not that different from the rest of us. Their core body temperature drops to 35 °C after 30 minutes in cold water - just above hypothermia, the point beyond which the body cannot warm up again without help. In contrast, Pugh can keep his core temperature as high as 36 °C even after swimming for 30 minutes in much colder water. How does he do it?

His background seems ordinary enough. Born in 1970 near Plymouth, in south-west England, he went to boarding school at the age of six. It wasn't until later, when he moved to South Africa, that he fell in love with swimming. At the age of 17, one month after his first proper swimming lesson, Pugh took part in an organised 7-kilometre swim from Robben Island - where Nelson Mandela was held for 18 years and the water is a chilly 12 °C. Back then he wore a wetsuit, but he says the swim planted the seeds of a passion for long-distance swimming and a desire to set new records.

Over the past 20 years he has taken part in 17 long-distance swims, including across the English Channel, along the whole of the river Thames from Kemble to London, and a 204-kilometre, 21-day swim along Sognefjord in Norway. During his travels he began noticing the effects of climate change such as melting ice caps and retreating glaciers, and decided to use his ever more extreme swims to raise awareness of the state of the planet - culminating in two long swims in the Antarctic and the Arctic.

It takes more than ideological conviction to survive icy waters, though. Pugh attributes his success to intense mental preparation. In the weeks building up to a swim he will spend up to 4 hours a day with a coach, going through mental exercises to calm him and focus his mind on the task. These include concentrating on emotionally challenging periods of his life to build up a sense of determination that will help him succeed. "I think about every part of the swim, how it will occur from beginning to end. I hear the sound of my stroke in the water and I feel ice on my skin," he adds.

Full Article Here

Just another awesome example exemplifying the fact that humans pretty much can do anything if they are physically/mentally up to it ...


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