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How to start cold water swimming safely

Posted by Jordan Curet

The cold water swimming buzz is spreading all over the world at a rapid pace. Once a fairly niche activity, this rejuvenating hobby became more popular during the COVID-19 lockdowns, where many of us weren’t able to visit our local sports centers. Instead, we turned to nature to provide our swimming pools. 

 Those who try it are hooked – and the health benefits are clear, making it an attractive prospect for newcomers too. Swimmers can expect to see an improvement in their metabolism, a boosted immune system, improved mental health, as well as better skin and hair. In some cases, women who are going through the menopause have also found that taking a weekly dip relieves some of the symptoms. Plus, you may find that you grow in confidence, and feel a sense of calm and clarity as you connect with the world around you.

 So how can you take the plunge safely? Let’s dive in.

Advice for keeping yourself safe

Go in a group, or share your location

Cold water swimming can be done in an outdoor pool, but often participants choose a river, lake or even the sea. These are wild spots, so whilst most people won’t have any issues, it’s good to remember that nature is unpredictable. Plus, the water is very cold, which your body won’t be used to. 

 Swimming in a group, or at least sharing your swimming location, as well as the time you are getting in and out, can help keep you safe should anything not quite go to plan. Swimming in a group is also part of the joy of cold water swimming for some people, as the sense of community and friendship gets them out of bed and down to the water’s edge even on the coldest of days.

Wear appropriate clothing

When tackling cold water, it’s important to be sensible about your attire. Whilst you might be tempted to jump straight in in just your swimming costume, as a beginner, you may want to take a step back and get a wetsuit. This will help your body adjust and reduce the chances of cold water shock.

 You should also ensure that you can be clearly seen, both by other swimmers and water users, and from the shore. Opting for a brightly coloured swim hat or floating buoy can ensure that you’re keeping yourself safe and helping others.

Understand the signs of hypothermia

It’s important to recognise that cold water swimming is a challenge for our bodies. Whilst there are health benefits, there are also risks. One of these is hypothermia, which is caused by prolonged exposure to very cold temperatures. 

Signs of hypothermia in adults include shivering, feeling tired, confusion, memory loss, slurred speech and drowsiness. If you notice yourself or anyone else starting to display these symptoms, get them out of the water and into the warmth before things start to get more serious.

Discover North America in a new way

Ready to jump in? Then make sure to do your research and find some of the best swimming spots near you. Then, get some friends together, grab your swimming hats and wetsuits, and discover the joy of this exhilarating hobby for yourself.