Summertime swimming seems a far less daunting activity but the benefits of a cold water dip are vast and there’s something very calming about immersing yourself in the deep blue. Whether that’s the sea, lakes or rivers, a winter swim can bring a bit of mental sunshine, regardless of what the mercury is saying.
Read on for some of the undeniable benefits and some top tips for staying safe!
Boost your Immune System
Cold water swimming helps to boost your white blood cell count which in turn helps your body to get better at activating its defenses. You’re also increasing circulation and burning calories at the same time.
Increase mental wellbeing
Open water and cold water swimming can help in stress reduction and increase feelings of calm and relaxation (once you’re over the temperature shock, of course!) It can also trigger a release of dopamine and serotonin, both natural chemical ‘messengers’ associated with general happiness and wellbeing.
Foster a sense of community
There’s a huge camaraderie and support system that exists within the open water swimming community. The social aspect of swimming in the sea, lakes or rivers is a big draw for many and you’re bound to make new social connections as you all plunge into the icy waters!
Do you skin a favour
Saltwater in particular gives your skin access to a boost of vitamins and minerals including magnesium, sodium, calcium, chloride and sulphate. Sea water can help to reduce skin inflammation, promotes the retention of moisture and can increase the healing process of minor cuts or abrasions.
Tips for winter swimming
Make yourself a checklist: bathing suit, wetsuit, towel, dry robe if that’s your thing, water and a snack afterwards or better yet, a wee flask of hot coffee or chocolate for your post-dip warm up. Bring a beanie and gloves to pop on afterwards too and don’t forget googles, tow float and swimming cap!
Wetsuits are perfectly acceptable
No one is here to be a hero. Yes, there’s a challenge aspect that comes with winter swimming and a joy in battling the elements - but only to a point. If it’s simply too cold you’ll wind up doing yourself more harm than good and a wetsuit will enable you to stay in the water for a little longer meaning more calories burned and more time to make those social connections!
Stay safe, be seen
You might think you’re easy to spot, but from shore, your bobbing head can look like a buoy or a bit of floating driftwood. Make sure to wear a brightly coloured swimming cap and take a tow float with you too.
Keep your extremities warm
If the temperature of the water is really dipping, kit yourself out in a pair of gloves and booties. Your fingers and toes will feel the cold first and there’s no fun in tingling, numb digits, not to mention it will make swimming back to shore a lot trickier.
Get warm + dry quickly
It’s important to warm up gradually after a cold water swim. Dry off and get changed quickly once you’re out of the water and wrap your hands around that flask of hot coffee or chocolate to give you a measured warm-up.
If you're motivated by the idea of taking a wintery dip, check out some places in Ireland that have historically held Christmas Day swims and head into the new year with the blood pumping!