Sarah Maxwell takes the plunge and braves the chill of wild swimming

Something which has caught my eye over the last year is open water swimming, or cold-water therapy, gaining lots of media attention and there is a good reason for it. Over the last year of lockdowns I have had many friends telling me they have garnered a love of wild swimming. I have closed my ears many times because I have to admit that I have an aversion to cold water!

I have been known to take 30 minutes to ease into the local swimming pool (inch by inch) and getting into a cold sea is a horror to me. This being the case, I have turned down every opportunity to give it a try. However, after a lot of research about the amazing benefits to be had I’m going to give it a go. Starting my practice by turning the shower to cold on occasion to at least start to gain some benefits and acclimatise.

Swimming in cold water reaps the rewards of cold water therapy. Cold water therapy has been used for centuries and more recently used in injury rehabilitation. It’s known for reducing inflammation and pain, it’s also a great boost for the circulatory system.

But just why is wild swimming in cold water so good for you? 

  • It has a positive effect with post exercise recovery and muscle soreness (I always encourage my athletes to have a cold bath or shower after training). I so know that after they all see this I’m going to have to as well! 
  • It reduces body pain and inflammation, improves circulation and boosts your immune system and burns more calories! 
  • Immersing yourself in cold water and reconnecting with nature is widely known to benefit our mental health, reducing anxiety, stress and depression. 
  • It increases energy levels, improves your state of mind and releases endorphins, our happy hormones. 

So, combining the therapeutic effects of cold water and the benefits of the great outdoors you have a winning recipe.

This is a lovely quote about wild swimming from Wild Swimmer Sophie Laurimore: “I swam every week throughout lockdown and am convinced that the adventure of ice cold wild swimming helped keep me sane.”

And here’s another quote that I read recently and I thought was a very fitting one for current times: “It helps slow down time and calm the inner monologue.” Anonymous

A note of caution: 

Please make sure you check with your doctor before jumping in – cold water is a shock to the body and anyone with a heart condition or contraindications to this activity should make sure it’s safe for them. Acclimatisation to the cold is a gradual process, take it easy and stay safe! 

In a year when the world has become unstable and unbalanced, people are looking for new ways to realign their physical and mental health and this has meant being more creative with how we go about it. Wild swimming is clearly something that’s going to stay and increase in popularity.

Some essential links to go wild in the water:

outdoorswimmingsociety.com

wildswimming.co.uk/south-east-england

healthline.com/health/cold-water-therapy

And for those who go to the extreme, you can download the following document from the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

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