Why Has Open Water Swimming Become so Addictive?
During the summer months, even in the UK, we often see people of all ages swimming in the sea and usually, by the time September kicks in, this is a less common sight. But not anymore. Over the past few years more and more people have taken to open swimming during all seasons, even in winter, with groups such as the Bluetits Chill Swimmers, setting up across the country.
What’s more, due to lockdown restrictions which has seen swimming pools, leisure centres, gyms and other facilities having to remain closed, open water swimming has become even more popular than ever amongst athletes and amateurs alike.
Benefits of Open Water Swimming
Louise Snelgrove, co-owner of Sharks Swim & Triathlon in Swansea, is one determined lady who has kept on swimming throughout the year, and even in freezing temperatures. Louise, along with three other local ladies, is training to complete a 21-mile swim across the English channel next June. Although she has this goal to works towards, Louise is a strong advocate of the physical and mental benefits of cold water swimming for people of any ages.
Explains Louise, “There is a real sense of community when it comes to open water swimming, mainly as people tend to go to the same beach each time. If you ask any of the swimmers why they enjoy the experience so much, the majority will tell you that it helps to reset the buttons and is good for their mental health. Others love the adrenaline rush of being submerged in cold water which has a profound impact on both the body and the mind.
“Generally, this time of year, most of us only stay in the water for 10 to 15 minutes but that release of endorphins and serotonin floods in and stays in your body pretty much the whole day, making your feel invigorated and ready for whatever live throws at you!
“Nearly all of us, as we prepare for the cold water swim, say to ourselves that we must be mad doing this; but once you’re in, there’s a physical release along with the psychological achievement that you’ve done something that was initially a challenge.”
Most people who enjoy a daily open water swim, tend to swim outdoors all year round. If you’re thinking of taking an open water dip this winter, it’s important to acclimatise your body first by literally dipping your body in the cold water and then getting out and getting warm straight away. That way, you can gradually build up to more time in the water (though you will still always need to have the right equipment both in and out of the water) to keep yourself safe and warm at all time.
Staying safe in the sea in winter
Louise has also come up with these guidelines to ensure you stay safe in the sea in winter:
- If possible, join a group or go swimming a friend who is also up for the challenge with you
- Invest in a brightly coloured swimming cap so that you can easily be spotted if you get into difficulty (plus it will keep your head warm too)
- For sea swimming you should also invest in a tow float. Not only will it help with buoyancy, it also makes you more visible to others, particularly if there are boats around.
- It’s not everyone’s choice (and we are seeing more and more swimmers simply wearing a standard swimming costume) but a wetsuit can help to keep you warm, particularly if you’re not used to cold water swimming. Similarly, it’s also a good idea to keep your fingers and toes warm with neoprene gloves and booties; while some swimmers also opt to wear earplugs in the water.
- As mentioned, don’t overdo it when swimming in cold water as you really don’t want hypothermia to kick in. Just go in for a few minutes to see how it feels and build up to more time as your body gets used to the experience.
- You should always check the weather forecast too and never go into the water when the weather conditions are bad.
- Ensure you have the right clothing and equipment when you get out of the water to get your body back to temperature. This should include a coat or robe, such as a Dry Robe or Swimzi, a warm hat, socks and gloves and a warm drink. Avoid getting straight into a hot shower as this can result in chill blains, it’s always best to warm up your body first.
Check out this video here:
Sharks Swim & Triathlon
At Sharks Swim & Triathlon we offer a complete range of wetsuits, swim accessories, robes and floats to ensure you keep safe and warm when open water swimming all year round. Whilst our shop in Gorseinon remains closed, all of these products are available to order online here https://sharksswimshop.com/