Pre- and post-swim rituals for cold-water swimming
For a safe and enjoyable cold water swimming experience, it’s helpful to establish some pre- and post-swim rituals. Jonathan Cowie shares his top tips.
A lot is written about how to get into cold water and how long to swim for, but the rituals of before and after your swim are equally – if not more – important to ensure you have a safe and enjoyable cold water swimming experience.
Warm up first
Before your swim it is good practice to have a gentle warm-up before entering the water. If you are cold when you get in the water you will only get colder much quicker so make sure you are wrapped up warm before your swim and do some gentle warm-up exercises.
Arrange your clothing
For when you are ready to get changed after your swim, always lay out your clothes in the order you put them on. I put my towel on the top of my bag and lay my changing robe over the top of everything.
Invest in a rain-proof bag – this is the UK in winter so expect some bad weather! Hide your shoes under your bag to keep them dry in case it does rain – there is nothing worse than putting cold feet into wet shoes.
A changing mat is a great bit of kit when getting changed on muddy or rocky shores – you could use an bit of old camping mat, recycled wetsuit, Ikea bag or builders trug.
Dry and dress quickly!
After your swim your first consideration should be to get dressed in warm clothes as quickly as possible. Towelling robes are good to help you get dry quickly while preserving your modesty.
Easy-to-put-on layers are essential. Foing up flies and jeans buttons can be tricky if you can’t feel your fingers so wear tracksuit trousers or leggings. There is nothing so difficult as trying to fumble your way into your pants, one-legged with numb feet and fingers, so be bold, go commando!
Likewise, if you must wear a bra then it might be easier to ask a friend to do it up for you. Or a front-fastening bra is much easier to put on with cold fingers.
Easy-to-put-on shoes or boots are the best option – you don’t want to be struggling with stiff leather or complicated laces.
Perform a jig
Once you are dressed rewarm with gentle movement (I like to do a little jig), a warm drink and a snack. Only drive once you have recovered from your swim, in case of after-drop.
This article originally featured in the November 2022 issue of Outdoor Swimmer. To subscribe to the magazine, click here.
Read more guidance on cold-water swimming.