Charmian Frend is aiming to break the world ice swim record in 2022

ICE COOL: Swimmer Charmian Frend submerging in a bin full of ice water, overseen by her coach Narelle Simpson. Picture: Geoff Jones
ICE COOL: Swimmer Charmian Frend submerging in a bin full of ice water, overseen by her coach Narelle Simpson. Picture: Geoff Jones

EVERY week or so, Charm Frend fills a wheelie bin half full of water, adds five bags of ice, puts on an album from the 80s and climbs in to spend 20 minutes immersed in near frozen nirvana.

With Covid restricting travel to colder parts of the country, it's the only way the 51-year-old can replicate the sort of water temperature she will encounter ahead of a crack at the world ice swim record next year. To break the men's and women's record, Charm (pronounced Sharm, and from Charmian) has to swim at least 3.75km in water that must stay under 5°C the whole way.

The attempt, overseen by legendary Manly swim coach Narelle Simpson and a large support crew and medical specialists, will be held at either Lake Crackenback or Thredbo Lake in July/August. Simpson estimates Charm must complete the swim inside 80 minutes as the cold drains the ability to swim fast. She will be checked twice in the first 30 minutes, then every five to seven minutes for any signs of hypothermia and/or drop in stroke rate. The South African-based International Ice Swimming Association will monitor via video.

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In the meantime, the battered old wheelie bin is Charm's constant companion.

"Five bags of ice gets it down to three degrees and I last about 20 minutes because you're not moving around," she told Inside Back.

"I've got some 80s music from my 50th I might listen to while I'm in there or some Radiohead. The other day it was (Pink Floyd's) Dark Side of the Moon. It takes my mind off it but I don't really think of cold as bad. It's just a different sensation. The last ice bath I took, my body temperature actually went up so my body is adapting. It's saying 'I'm cold so I'll heat myself up'. It's given me confidence I can break the record."

Remarkably, Charm has had to overcome ten back operations in her lifetime, one of which saw a battery pack with electrodes attached to her spine to relieve chronic sciatic pain. That's why the world record attempt is also a fundraiser for North Shore Hospital's Pain Foundation, which has helped manage her back problems over the years.

More information is available on the Pain Foundation's website (painfoundation.org.au).

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