by Kerry Dawson of Outdawsy.
If you have been anywhere near lakes, rivers or the sea in the past couple of winters, you may have noticed there is a strange phenomenon in the water…..people swimming!
These seemingly crazy people laughing and smiling, wearing bobble hats and towing brightly coloured buoys are becoming an increasingly regular sight.
Over the last few years, open water and wild swimming has become extremely popular, with some reports suggesting that the sport tripled in popularity between 2019 and 2021.
It’s of no surprise then that with the increase of people choosing our wild waterways over swimming pools, that cold water swimming is also on the rise.
Cold water swimming and dipping has received a lot of recent publicity and celebrity endorsements and now everyone seems to want to get involved.
So what is all the hype about? Has the world really gone mad? Or are there actually good reasons to take up cold water swimming this winter other than just jumping on the bandwagon.
What Is Cold Water Swimming?
Cold water swimming is swimming or even dipping in water less than 16 degrees either in open bodies of water or unheated lidos and pools. Often the temperatures are much lower than this in the winter. Inland waters in the UK can get as low as zero degrees, and coastal waters are often in single digits.
13 Reasons Why You Need to Take Up Cold Water Swimming This Winter
- Physical Health Benefits
The physical health benefits of cold water swimming have been well documented. Several long term chronic illnesses have been shown to benefit from cold water therapy, and it is well known to boost your immune system, improve circulation and burn calories.
- It Makes You Happy
The mental health benefits of cold water swimming have also been well documented. The release of endorphins, your happy hormone, are on another level with the cold water exposure.
Not only can it improve your mood, but anecdotal evidence suggests that it can relieve anxiety, stress and depression, something I have experienced personally.
- It’s a Social Club
The wild swimming community in general is a fantastic all-inclusive group of people. In the winter is becomes even more tight knit, and is like a very welcoming social club. Having the shared interest and experiences of winter swimming gives a real sense of camaraderie and community spirit. I have met some wonderful people through it, and you can’t beat having an icy dip with friends old and new to laugh and share the experience with.
- It Doesn’t Cost Anything
Wild swimming generally requires very little in the way of equipment (unless you want to buy all the gear), and unless you are swimming at a commercial venue it’s completely free to do so.
- You get to see the world from a different perspective
There’s something about being in the water so close to nature to give you complete sense solace and escapism. I never fail to appreciate how lucky I am to see the world from the water’s surface, whether it’s in the sea looking back at the coast or taking in the view from the middle of a lake or river.
- Increases self confidence
A surprising benefit that I found of cold water swimming was the increase in self-confidence. A self confidence in how amazing our bodies are. Maybe it’s because the extreme temperatures test your body to it’s limits, or maybe it’s because you are pushing through physical and mental barriers. Either way by accomplishing something you never thought you could, and many others wouldn’t even contemplate, gives a massive boost in self-confidence.
- No pressure to perform
Unlike in many other sports there are no targets unless you choose to set them yourself. It’s not a competition. There are no time limits or distances you need to cover. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a wet suit and neoprene from head to toe or just in skins, there’s no judgement. You’re only challenging yourself and your own limitations.
- Justifies the purchase of a trendy change robe
It’s no surprise that with the increase in popularity of the sport, that post swim attire has also gained in popularity. Whilst there is no necessity for buying expensive kit, you may find after the sport has got you hooked you will want to buy all the gear.
- It’s perfectly acceptable to pee
Whilst there should be no P in the pool it’s perfectly permissible, encouraged even, to have a wee in the water. Wild weeing whilst swimming is a great way to warm up if only for a short while.
- Increases libido
It’s well known that in the extreme cold certain anatomical appendages can shrivel. Despite this fact putting off many potential winter male merfolk, cold water swimming has actually been shown to increase libido and support fertility.
- Guilt Free Cake Eating
The open water swim community know that it is important to have a high calorie snack after being subjected to the cold water. Sugary snacks work well as a quick supply of energy, and cake is a great option. Post swim, your body is still burning calories as you warm up, almost as fast as you can consume them. What’s not to love about that!
- It’s a great opportunity to travel
As you get hooked on cold water swimming you may find yourself lusting after swim spots on Instagram and wanting to travel to them. I have spent a lot of time this year travelling all over the UK to experience these elusive spots for myself. The added bonus is that in the winter the more popular areas are usually pretty empty and you get to enjoy these stunning locations and beautiful scenery all to yourself.
- It makes you feel alive!
Simply put that’s what it’s all about! It makes you feel alive, grateful for everything in life and heightens every sense.
The post swim high or swimphoria, as I like to call it, you get is second to none. If I could bottle that feeling and hand it out to everyone, then the world would be a better happier place.
If cold water swimming is something you are considering then there are some great articles to read about how to start and get into it safely, including my Beginner’s Guide to Cold Water Swimming.
You can find out more about Kerry through her Instagram account @Outdawsy