Tag: cold

Top Tips For Winter Swimming

Welcome to the world of cold water swimming!

Winter swimming communities famously thrive in northern European countries where an icy dip can be followed by a toasty sauna. There are many theories on the benefits of cold water swimming, amongst these are that as well as being surprisingly addictive, it’s said to give the immune system a kick start and gives an amazing sense of well-being which can benefit your mental state of being. What are you waiting for?

Tips on becoming a cold water swimmer

1. Authentic cold water swimmers around the world wear a regular swimming costume, a silicone swim hat and goggles. No wetsuit is worn, as this defeats the concept and benefits of feeling the cold water on your body, although a lot of people find that training in neoprene socks and gloves can help the extremities manage the cold better.

2. Most people stop swimming outdoors when it gets to October, but a cold water swimmer keep swimming throughout the year and just reduce the distance and time in the water. Your body will continue to acclimatise as the temp drops.  A top tip is to keep a log book of when you swim, how long for, how you felt and what your recovery was like.

3. Find a safe place where you can swim, ideally somewhere where you can park nearby or can use a changing room or sheltered area for changing.  You also want to make sure that you have easy access in and out of the water.

4. Find some others to dip with you, to make sure you are safe during and after swimming, and stay within your depth on your first cold water dip.  There should be people around when you come out of your swim to assist with your recovery or hand you a warm drink etc.  Basically cold water swimmers look out for each other, its as important part of winter swimming as the swim itself.

5. Swim safe. Swimmers need to be easily seen by boats in open water so at the very least avoid swimming in busy areas for boats, jet skis and ferries. It is also a swimmer’s responsibility to make yourself as visible as possible to other open water users: always wear a brightly coloured swimhat; consider buying a coloured swim tow-float (available from swimsecure.co.uk online shop); in dull or foggy conditions, or at night, attach swim lights or light sticks to the back of your goggles or swim costume.  You also want to make sure that you can be easily seen by any support team on the water on standing on the shore side.

6. The trick with cold water  acclimatisation is that there is no trick!  It’s all about going in the water regularly, daily dips, even for a very short period prepares the body to cope with the ‘cold water shock’ and the recovery.  Don’t rush to be a ice mile hero, become a winter swimmer first, go through a winter swimming regularly, so you understand how your body copes with different water temps.  Once the water is under 10 degrees it will feel very cold when entering the water, but once its under 5 degrees, event drop of 1 degree C makes a big difference.  Also the wind and outside temp makes a difference, and some days you just feel better than others.  It’s only by spending time in cold water that you get to know you limits.  Don’t push too far to quickly and ENJOY IT!

7. A thermometer is not essential, but can be helpful in knowing how you body copes and recovers in different temps, some people like to know before they go in the water and other just want to get in and swim and find out what it is when they get out. Keep a check on how long you swim for as the temperature drops and starts to rise again approaching the summer. You soon learn your limits and how much you should do each time.

8. Don’t try to be a hero in cold water, know your limitations, and get out as soon as you feel your body moving more slowly or if your hands start to become stiff. Try just a few minutes the first time. Breath slowly and calmly. Keep your head above water until you are comfortable putting your face in. If you begin to feel warm in cold water, you are experiencing the dangerous first stage of hypothermia so get out of the water immediately (see link below for a full definition).

9. When you exit the water, put on a hat, and get fully dressed immediately. Your body temperature will continue to drop for a few minutes after getting out of the water, so don’t delay! Set all your kit out ready before you go in the water, have it stacked in the order you will put it back on in. As soon as you are out, your only focus is getting out of your wet kit and into your clothes ASAP.  There’s plenty of time to chat afterwards with your friends whilst having a warm drink. Do not warm up the body suddenly with a hot shower or bath, gradual warmth with layers and a warm drink is much safer and more effective.

10. Hypothermia can be fatal, please see links below for more information:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hypothermia

10 Ways to Improve Cold Water Tolerance

By: Tim Moss

Cold water swimming is something I’ve written about before, particularly with regards to its health benefits, but here are a few tips for acclimatising to cold water, adapting to the icy water and improving tolerance for those winter swims:

  1. Get regular swimming exposure in cool or cold water. The more you do it, even if only briefly, the more you’ll improve your tolerance.
  2. Wear a swimming cap or two, and/or a neoprene hat, as your head will suffer the most in the cold water.
  3. Gain some weight. Fatter people stay warmer for longer and have better tolerance as a result.
  4. Use a wetsuit if you want to do a longer winter swim (and don’t consider it “cheating”).
  5. Wetsuit gloves and socks are excellent additions, with or without the main suit, as hands and feet can get painfully cold.
  6. Use a bigger swimming mask rather than little goggles as they’ll cover more of your face when it goes under water.
  7. Try cold showers and baths at home to help with your body’s cold water adaptation.
  8. Build up your brown fat supplies. Not very practical but an interesting area of research
  9. Train to be a stronger swimmer. Muscles create heat so if you’re able to work hard in the water, you’ll stay warmer.
  10. Enter slowly and/or splash yourself a bit first. It’s argued that this gives your body a chance to react more than if you jump straight in (which Lewis Gordon Pugh advocates).

5 Health benefits Of Swimming In Winter

Overweight, lethargic, bad skin, thin hair. These are not adjectives often associated with those crazy freezing water enthusiasts. Try: athletic, youthful and toned with good complexions and lots of energy. So, what’s their secret? What are the real beneficial health outcomes of regular exposure to cold water and are they available to normal people without masochistic tendencies?

 

1. Boosts your immune system

For your body, a sudden and drastic change in temperature constitutes an attack – as anyone who’s ever fallen overboard in British waters will concur. And, whilst “attacking” your own body may not sound like a good thing, there is no harm in keeping it on its toes. In fact, quite the opposite.

Scientists from the Czech Republic immersed witting subjects in cold water for one hour, three times a week and monitored their physiology. They found significant increases in white blood cell counts and several other factors relating to the immune system. This was attributed to the cold water being a mild stressor which activates the immune system and gives it some practice.

2. For an all-natural high

Winter swimmers talk a lot about the ‘high’ they get from cold water – a feeling of wellbeing that’s so encompassing that it becomes quite addictive (who doesn’t want to feel truly good, at least once a day?) The cause? Endorphins.

Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers and, in the case of a cold dip, it uses them to take the sting away from your skin. So, to get high on your own supply, all you need to do is jump in a river.

And if you think that sounds dangerously close to the pleasure/pain barrier then you’re probably right. The two other primary causes for endorphin release are pain and orgasm.

The cold will also stimulate your parasympathetic system, which is responsible for rest and repair, and this can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are a vital part of keeping us happy and low levels of them are linked with depression. Couple this effect with the endorphin rush as you take the plunge and it should make for a warm glow and a wide smile when you re-emerge.

3. Gets your blood pumping

Being hot brings blood to surface. Being cold sends it to your organs. Both extremes work your heart like a pump. That’s why the whole sit in the sauna, roll in the snow, sit in the sauna thing makes people glow. But why is increased blood flow good for you?

Well, it helps flush your circulation for starters, pushing blood through all your capillaries, veins and arteries. It will exfoliate your skin and flush impurities from it, thus helping your complexion (firm-bodied women of all ages around pool sides say it stops cellulite). Evidence also demonstrates that your body adapts to the cold with repeated exposure and this may improve your circulation, particularly to your extremities – no bad thing in the winter months.

You could get these benefits by switching between the hot and cold taps in your shower (or the sauna, snow, sauna thing) but that doesn’t sound nearly as fun as quick dip in your local pond followed by wrapping up warm afterwards.

 

4. Improves your sex life

The suggestion of a cold shower might bring forth images of hot-headed young men trying to quell wanton urges but research paints a different picture.

In a study with a similar format to the one described above, participants took daily cold baths and were monitored for changes. In addition to some similar results to their Czech counterparts, these researchers also found increased production of testosterone and oestrogen in men and women respectively.

In addition to enhancing libido in both sexes, these hormones also play an important role in fertility. In fact, one technique recommended for men looking to fatherhood is to bathe their testicles in cold water every day.  Whatever your procreative desires, a dip of a different sort certainly could add an edge to your sex life.

5. Burns calories

We all know that swimming is great exercise but there are some extra benefits from doing it in the North Sea that you just won’t get from a warm wade in the Med.

Swimming in cold water will make your body work twice as hard to keep you warm and burn more calories in the process. For this sort of exercise, fat is your body’s primary source of energy and the increased work rate will increase your metabolism in the long run.