Once again I’ve been fairly quiet on posting blogs and I can only apologise!
Many open water swimmers only enjoy ‘fair weather’ swimming in the warmer months of the year and cannot understand why some people manage to swim all the way through the winter months as well (some crazy people without wetsuits! You know who you are!)
I myself don’t swim regularly through the winter, however I do enjoy still getting in from time to time to keep my body acclimatised to the colder temperatures. I wouldn’t say that I’m totally acclimatised or a pure cold water swimmer but I can certainly appreciate the benefits of ensuring that my body stays used to the colder temperatures.
I do advocate though that acclimatising to cold water temperatures is a slow and gradual process, most cold water swimmers I know have spent months/years allowing their body to acclimatise to temperatures that some people don’t like to even go outside in, never mind go in water! This has to be a minute by minute process of getting your body acclimatised and not taken lightly. Many people tend not to do it alone, having that support there from another fellow swimmer is crucial to aiding the process. Especially from a safety point of view, you have to be aware of how you and your body is feeling all of the time, knowing when to get out is crucial. Trying to stay in the water just to prove a point is not a great idea at all as this is when issues can occur. Checking in on your fellow swimmers regularly is crucial to ensuring the safety of everyone is involved. If one person starts to feel the effects of the cold water then I believe that you should all get out, ensure that the individual is ok, start to warm them up slowly, ensure the water is dried from the body, warm drinks are sipped slowly and plenty of thin layers are worn.
Recently I spent some time in the Lake District with one of my good friends, upon arrival we had noticed that there was sheets of ice covering some of the entry points in to the river. This genuinely caused a little bit of worry within me as I was expecting it to be the coldest I have ever been in, which currently stood around 5 degrees. With our impending doom looming closer and closer, we ensured we all had the correct clothing needed and warm weather kit for once we had finished (bobble hats etc.) as I honestly believe that there is a golden time in which you need to start the warming process after you have been in cold water temperatures. At around 11am when we got in, I would think the temperature was around 3 degrees as the water was flowing quite quickly, although we checked the temperature a few hours after (after we thawed out!) and it was reading just over 4 degrees. This was very close to the shore and I do believe that it would have been colder further in the river where we were in.
In all honesty, my ‘swimming’ in winter time is not really swimming, it’s more about keeping my body used to the colder temperatures as mentioned earlier.
We got in!
The first few minutes are probably the worst as the shock response in the system begins to set in, however once your breathing is under control, your nervous system begins to relax and feel ‘ok’ with the cooler temperatures and off we went!
I have had a few discussions with people (who aren’t necessarily swimmers, let alone open water swimmers) recently regarding different events such as ‘Boxing Day dips’ or ‘New Years Day dips’ regarding what they are probably going to expect to feel, not only from a physiological aspect but a psychological aspect as well. I have and always will promote open water swimming as a positive strategy for aiding with mental health therapies however I appreciate each person is different and what works for one person, does not mean that it will work for another. I’m certainly going to visit a cold water event for a boxing day dip this year and try and gauge how people have prepared (if any!) for the dip! I do appreciate that everyone will only be in for a matter of moments but it will be interesting to see the after effects and how they deal with them.
I will obviously give as much support and guidance to anyone suffering the effects and help in any way I can!
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