DEPENDING ON when and where you go wild swimming, there is a fair chance that the water will be cold. This can make the whole experience seem daunting if you are relatively new to swimming outside in the lakes, rivers and seas, but once you do get used to the temperature, you will find that it is one of the most exhilarating parts of each swim.
Firstly, the initial plunge into the water always seems worse than it actually is. Once you are past this stage and starting to swim your body relaxes into the flow of the stroke. You may even start to enjoy the cold. Having said that it is always a good idea to prepare your body so that the initial submersion isn’t too much of a shock.
There are a few ways to do this:
Exposure By Degrees
For your first few swims, don’t dive straight into the water. Walk slowly out and let your body get used to the temperature. Once you are up to your waist, splash water on your face and on the back of your neck. Walk until the water reaches your armpits then take a deep breath, kick off and swim. This will help you to become gradually acclimatised before you fully submerge yourself.
Taking the odd cold shower here and there will allow you to casually get used to the feeling of diving into a lake, river or the sea. It will also drastically help to reduce the chance of experiencing any kind of cold water shock.
A good way to get into this habit is to switch a warm shower to a cold temperature for the last 10 – 20 seconds or so. This is also an excellent way to close your pores (after they have been cleaned) and is healthy for your skin and blood circulation. If you play any sports, lift weights, cycle or run, then cold showers are a tremendously useful tool for your recovery work. They help flush excess lactate from your muscles after exercise, stimulate the release of endorphins and can even help to lower cortisol levels (a stress hormone).
If you are planning a longer swim in colder climates, or are serious about developing a strong natural resistance, then cold showers can be taken every day and this will help your body to acclimatise.
Focus on the Benefits
Swimming in cold water has many positive effects on the human body. It addition to the points mentioned above, it can help alleviate depression, improve sex drive (contrary to the old fashioned Victorian myth about cold showers producing the opposite effect) and lower blood pressure. When you immerse yourself, your body will also release adrenaline in order to help you cope physiologically with the new surroundings.
If you know that every time you jump into that favourite river, lake or sea, that all of these effects take place, then it becomes extra motivation to keep you interested and keen.
Big brother Robbie (31) is the eldest of the trio. He was the proverbial canary in the cage, sent down to test the gloomy caverns of adulthood before the other two. An artist and writer, some of his swim-inspired VARC paintings were recently shown at a solo exhibiton at the Kendal Arts Centre. He is also the Editor-in-Chief of BOXROX Magazine, the world’s most widely read magazine for fans of functional fitness and Crossfit with 2.5 million monthly page-views from over 150 countries.