Where are you swimming this winter? And how to make the most of it.

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Last week we tested some neoprene accessories, posted pictures on Facebook and asked what Outdoor Swimmer readers would be doing in the winter. Options were (a) stop swimming outside, (b) continue to swim outdoors in just their swimming costumes or (c) continue to swim outdoors while layering up with neoprene. That post had more than 40 comments. We then conducted a Twitter poll asking the same questions, and received 100 responses in a few hours. This is obviously a topic that generates interest.

So, what did you say? On Twitter, it was surprisingly even between the three options with 30% of people stopping swimming outside, an impressive 40% continuing to swim in only your costumes and the rest (30%) reaching for some neoprene accessories.

The comments section on our Facebook post is worth a browse. For example, Flos was an (a) last year and hopes to be (b) this year but might be a (c) if it makes it easier. Dana is an (a) but wishes she could be a (b) or (c). Joe is a (b) and hopes he can stick with it. Phil has an unusual approach. He swims with a wetsuit through the summer but abandons it in the winter because it takes too long to change.

Twitter Poll Winter Swimming

For the record, most of the team at Outdoor Swimmer will continue swimming through winter in their costumes only. One of them (er, that would be me) will most likely stick firmly to the pool, although after the kit testing, might be tempted by (c). Whichever option you choose, have fun and stay safe. There’s no right or wrong thing to do: practical or medical considerations may determine your choices anyway. And please, don’t judge other people’s choices when it comes to outdoor swimming.

We thought we’d take a quick look at some of the advantages and disadvantages of each option.

(a) Stop swimming outside and return to the pool


  • It’s warm
  • You can stay in long enough to improve your fitness
  • It’s a good place to work on your swimming technique


  • It can be too hot (for some people)
  • It’s often crowded, making training difficult
  • Risk of lane rage

How to make the most of it

  • Make a plan for the season.
  • Find some training sessions to follow (e.g. see some sample swim training sessions) or join a masters swimming club.
  • Get a video analysis of your swimming technique.
  • Stay calm and carry on swimming.

(b) Continue swimming outdoors in just your swimming costume


  • Sense of accomplishment and real achievement of acclimatising to cold water.
  • Often very sociable.


  • Cold! In extreme conditions, time in water is limited to just a few minutes.
  • Cold water swimming risks including cold water shock, swim failure and hypothermia – take care!

How to make the most of it

  • Find a group of like-minded swimmers and swim together.
  • Be as consistent as you can be as the water gets colder. Swim at least once per week and more if possible.
  • Make sure you have lots of warm clothes for after, and arrange them so it’s quick and easy to get dressed.
  • Take responsibility for your own safety and those around you. Make sure you understand the risks.

(c) Layering up with neoprene


  • Protect your extremities from the physical pain of cold water
  • Enjoy exercising outdoors
  • Swim for longer that you could without neoprene


  • Kit faff – need to rinse and dry all that neoprene after each swim
  • Unnatural swimming experience? (This is a matter of opinion. I thought swimming in gloves and booties would be rubbish, but my experience of it was much more positive than I imagined.)
  • Protecting your extremities may hide the first signs that you're getting too cold - be aware your core may be getting colder than you think.

How to make the most of it

  • Follow the same guidance as for swimming without neoprene.
  • Take care of your kit. Rinse and dry it after each swim.

See the relevant post on Facebook


01 Cover December

Issue 44 December 2020

  • Finding joy in 2020: Sarah Thomas looks back on a very strange year
  • Motivation: triple Olympian Keri-anne Payne on dealing with changing situations
  • UnstoppaBull: the extreme adventurer who swam in the highest lake on earth
  • Wild swimming: misadventures in the Peak District
  • Soul Cap: solving the problem of swimming with afro hair

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