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10 tips for swimming in cold water

Cold water swimming has many benefits, and is exploding in popularity! It doesn't come without challenges though so read on to learn from our experiences.

Here's our 10 top tips for braving the cold water in 2022

1) Don't stay in too long

Seems obvious - but can catch out even the most experienced swimmer. You only need to stay in 2 or 3 minutes to get the benefits from cold water. Don't be persuaded to stay in as long as your friends or to go by the myth of 'one minute per degree', one day you may handle 10 minutes and the next only 5 minutes. Learn to really listen to your body.

2) Bring a warm drink for after

Really handy for helping yourself warm up after a cold dip and something to look forward too. Including alcohol after your swim may seem nice but can actually inhibit your bodies ability to reheat!

3) Bring clothes that are easy to change into

When you're cold, slightly damp and the wind is biting...trying to get back into a pair of tight jeans, or a sports bra is almost impossible. Bring clothes that slip on easily. I often opt for a pair of fleecy joggers and zipped hoodie.

4) Enter the water slowly

Diving into cold water head first is not a sensible idea, you need to ease your way in slowly to minimise the effects of cold shock.

5) Double or triple hat

If you're head down swimming, wear 2 hats, or opt for a neoprene hat on top of your regular swim hat. My top tip is make sure its pulled down over your eyebrows this helps eliminate the dreaded ice cream head!

6) Warm up slowly

Warming up to quickly can actually be dangerous, the rush of cold blood back to your core can cause fainting/heart issues. Warm up adding layers, a hat, drinking and eating, and sitting or gently exercising out the wind. Jumping straight into a hot shower, although appealing isn't a good idea.

7) Be aware of after drop and it's dangers

After drop is the phenomena where you actually feel colder 10 minutes after you get out, and is caused by the cold blood from your skin/capillaries returning to your core and making your core temperature drop lower than when you were in the water. It can cause violent shaking, hypothermia, and can be quite un-nerving. Don't jump straight in your car to drive home until you are thoroughly warmed through. You can help reduce after drop by warming slowly and thoroughly.

8) Protect your extremities

Swimming in cold water can make your extremities painfully cold. Prolonged or regularly subjecting your hands and feet to icy water can cause long term non freezing injuries to your fingers and toes. I would always advise to wear neoprene gloves and socks/booties during the winter months.

9) Earplugs!

If you're regularly swimming head down in cold water then you'll want to protect your ears from cold water using ear plugs. I've found the moldable ear plugs fantastic, and they only cost about £5 per pair. They're cheap, comfy and will protect my ears from damage like surfers ear while swimming in the winter.

10) Know the signs of cold water shock and be prepared for them

Cold water shock can occur in any water below 15 degrees (so most of Britain, most of the time). The sudden cooling of the skin can make you gasp for breath, and increase blood pressure and heart rate causing heart issues in even young people. To help you mitigate cold shock enter the water slowly, and for the first 60 second just focus on keeping your breathing under control, while staying in your depth. Studies have shown that just 5x 3 minute immersions into cold water (below 15 degrees) can cut your cold shock response in half.

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