Not another article about outdoor swimming, cold water swimming, 'wild' swimming.......whatever !
Sorry (not sorry), I know there have been numerous articles over the last two years about this, the trend to swim outdoors escalating when Covid-19 shut swimming pools in 2019 and forced dippers to find new swim opportunities. It's difficult to look at Instagram these days and find someone who isn't out there at 6am revelling in minus 10 degrees.
More seriously, there are good reasons people wax lyrical about the experience. As long as you are safe and sensible (as with any physical exertion) cold water swimming can be wonderful, good for your health and often highly addictive.
I'm really lucky to live in Clevedon, and can swim in both the marine lake, and - depending on the tide - the sea, both classified as 'wild' swimming (ie: there are no facilities and no lifeguard). The temperature of the lake at the moment (April) is about 10 degrees, it can go up to 20 degrees during a hot summer, but will sit around 1-3 degrees for much of the winter.
This is an extreme sport.
So why do it? The many benefits of cold water swimming include:
1. Cold water helps to boost the white blood cell count because the body is forced to react to changing conditions, thus building a stronger immune system. Over time, our body becomes better at activating its defences.
2. Cold water swimming activates endorphins (what the brain produces to make us feel good during activities) giving us a natural 'high' and is proven to help treat depression.
3. The heart has to pump faster in cold water and the body must work harder to keep everything warm while swimming. Overall, more calories are burned during cold water swimming than swimming in warmer conditions.
4. Many studies have identified the link between cold water and stress reduction. Cold water swimmers become calmer and more relaxed.
5. Cold water swimming forces blood to the skin's surface and helps to warm our extremities. Repeated exposure adapts us to the cold, and improves our circulation.
6. It's a great way to make friends and socialise, as there is a sense of community and camaraderie amongst cold water swimmers. There is nothing that brings people together like facing a challenge and sharing the experience as a group.
7. Finally - and possibly the best reason - it increases libido. A dip in cold water boosts oestrogen and testosterone production; the benefits of increased libido include more confidence, higher self-esteem, and enhanced mood.
Having swum through two winters now, I can recognise all these benefits. I prefer to wear a wetsuit when it is very cold, as I can stay in a few minutes longer whilst still getting all the benefits. But I also just like being outdoors. Even when the water is warm in summer, being able to swim outdoors is wonderful.
WARNING - I mentioned before that cold water immersion is extreme. There are safety measures you must follow:
** acclimatise slowly: start in the summer and adapt to the changing temperature
** only swim where it is safe to do so, and never swim alone
** wear the right kit
** no diving
** know your limits. The general rule is that you can spend 1 minute per degree of water temperature in the water – obviously, you need to listen to your body too!
There is lots of valuable guidance and safety information here: http://clevedonmarinelake.co.uk/your-visit/