Some people as soon as they hear the word ‘cold water’ are straight under the blanket again, trying to stay away from the thought. Unfortunately, not many people understand the healing benefits of such a sport. They miss out on such a fantastic opportunity to get down under with one of life’s many treasures. Here I’ll give you a little insight on all I’ve learned about cold water swimming!
Table of Contents
- Firstly, I’d like to share something personal, if I may?
- What are the benefits of cold water swimming?
- Is cold water swimming good for arthritis? How can it help?
- And Breathe….
- What’s the correct dress code for taking part?
- Cold water swimming and depression – What should I know?
- Important facts
- Cold showers and health benefits
- Do’s and Dont’s
- Staying safe is key!
I have to say that this is one of my favourite hobbies ever! People think I’m absolutely mad going to the sea during the winter, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. In 2021, I was introduced to a group of expats who go cold water swimming all year round. I was highly intrigued and wanted to find out about what all the fuss was about. So I tagged along and watched 5 people, including my dad Dave, walk into the sea. Most of them were wearing wet-suits with gloves and hats. I thought to myself, “what could possibly be so great about going into the freezing cold sea?! Are they all out of their minds?” That’s when I decided I would brave it next time. And I did with the help of my dad!
What are the benefits of cold water swimming?
The benefits from cold water swimming are actually quite a few:
Mood: Whilst you are in the water, your brain will activate cold water swimming endorphins, which immediately heighten your mood. I personally love this fact and seeing as though I have experienced the feeling for myself. It makes you laugh and smile. Once you get past the initial shock of the cold water, you are able to hold a conversion quite normally.
Circulation: The cold water lets the blood know it’s time to hit the surface, therefore warming us up. Did you know that regular cold water swimming adapts us to the cold?
Weight loss: Does cold water swimming help you lose weight? Yes, is the answer. It’s because your body is constantly burning calories to help you stay warm. Just as Jesus turned water into wine-we turn fat into warmth!
Increase in libido: Well, who wouldn’t want to have that happen to them? Increase in self-esteem, self-confidence and feeling on top of the world!
Make some great friends: You’d actually be surprised how many people take part in this hobby. As soon as you actually find the right circle of friends, as you are doing cold water swimming, you won’t even notice the time pass
Immunity stabiliser: If you are going cold water swimming regularly, you will probably have noticed you don’t get ill so often any more. This is due to the effect of the cold temperature and the fact that your white blood cell has been growing and getting bigger- so you stay healthy and fit!
Is cold water swimming good for arthritis? How can it help?
Many people unfortunately suffer with arthritis. Arthritis is a very painful illness where the joints stiffen, making it almost impossible for the person to move around. When you emerse your body into the water, the water will ease the joints, making is easier to move around. Your mindset completely resets. Problems disappear for a while and you suddenly feel amazing. It pretty much acts in the same way that a hydro-pool does for rehabilitation purposes used on injuries or paralysis.
Of course, there is a way to do cold water swimming properly:
Step one: Advisable, you will need a thermometer to check the temperature of the water and a waterproof watch, so you can keep your eye on the time.
Once you have been informed. However cold it is in the sea, that’s how many minutes you can safely stay in the water. The reason being is so that you don’t get too cold.
Step two: The most important thing is to remember your breathing techniques for cold water swimming. There’s no point going in the water screaming and shouting. The idea is to stay calm and breathe deeply. There’s just no point in wasting your energy. As you enter the water, you need to inhale a few times and when you’re ready, enter when you exhale. Once you are fully immersed in the water you will probably shake, but if you stop thinking how cold you are, you’ll connect with your body and start to enjoy it- no joke!
Step three: Once you are out of the water, it is vital that you get out of your wet clothes or suits and get dry. You must get dressed as soon as you can, and back to some places warm. What you don’t want to do is jump into any hot showers, baths or saunas as that will shock your body. You need to let yourself basically “thaw” out like a frozen pizza.
What’s the correct dress code for taking part?
As I said earlier, some people chose to wear full wet-suits, but I personally just wear a pair of shorts and a t-shirt. I guess it’s down to personal choice, of course if youre really brave you could go in your birthday suit! Having a pair of boots on will protect the bottom of your feet from rocks and seaweed. You can wear special gloves to somehow keep your hands from getting too cold, but be warned, they will still be somewhat cooler when you go back to shore. Also, some people wear hats to keep their ears and forehead from freezing. To make it easier, I’ll make a list:
- Thermometer for measuring the sea temperature
- Towel for when you come out of the water
- Large coat for when you come out of the water
- Wet-suit (rubber sealed gloves/ sea boots)
- Change of clothes which are easy to get on after you come out of the water
- Hot drink in a flask – (Hot chocolate/Tea/Coffee/soup)
Cold water swimming and depression – What should I know?
If you’re suffering from depression or anxiety issues like I was every day, and you don’t think you can carry on, you don’t want to do anything, you just can’t be bothered with anything and think the world’s against you. It’s not like that at all. You really do need to look after yourself! Choosing to just sit around is the worst thing you could do…you won’t feel productive at all. Even if you just go in the water for 5 minutes, it will be better than not going in it. Trust me, it works wonders for the mind.
Don’t try and just jump straight in. Remember, your body needs time to adjust to the temperature, so it’s no good just thrusting yourself under the water. Instead, go into the water and try and splash yourself, gradually getting used to the temperature. Once you are able to fully immerse yourself in the water, it is of the most importance that you regulate your breathing. I always find it easiest to count to 3 and then to duck myself under the water. It does get easier over time and the more that you do it.
Cold showers and health benefits
If you are not able to get to the sea, that doesn’t mean that you have to miss out. Taking cold showers are also an option. The effect of standing under a cold shower a day will affect you in the same way that swimming in the ocean would. The cold water causes an invigorating feeling and blocks negative thoughts and problems due to the fact your body isn’t used to such temperatures.
Do’s and Dont’s
- Take the right equipment
- stay with your group
- make sure to get warm slowly afterwards (thaw out)
- Have a hot drink afterwards
- Keep your eye on the time and temperature
- Enter the water at a slow pace
- Consume alcohol or narcotics before swimming EVER.
- Go too far out from the shore
- Push your limits-only do what you feel you can
- Go swimming if you have a high temperature
- Go in the water if you feel you can’t breathe
- Go out alone
Staying safe is key!
Now I’ll tell you a true story. I was out swimming with my dad and our circle of swimming buddies this one time. Everyone was bopping around, having a chat and basically just chilling out. I ended up falling into some sort of hole in the sea and the tide had slowly pulled me away. Now, I’m a good swimmer, but this was something else. All of a sudden I tried to shout out but no one could hear me as they were all talking to each other. My head went under, and I could feel I was, in fact, drowning. As panic washed over me, I tried one last attempt to shout and push myself up. If it wasn’t for my dad, I’d have been a goner. My dad used to be a commercial diver, so if anyone was going to save me, it was him. I’m still scared to this day about it happening again, so when we go out cold water swimming now, I stay right near him. So the moral of that story is, even if you think you’re a strong swimmer – don’t go out alone, leave that to the professionals (like my Dad)!