Will cold water inspire a new wave of swimmers asks SwimTrek founder Simon Murie
I’m really excited to be joining Outdoor Swimmer as a columnist. It’s an honour to be asked to contribute and a great excuse to talk about my great passion that is open water swimming.
For my first piece, I have been thinking recently about the flurry of excitement around the mental benefits of cold water swimming and how this can hopefully inspire a new wave of outdoor swimmers.
There has been a lot of talk in the press of late of the mental health benefits associated with cold water swimming. The cross-adaptation benefits of how the body deals with one form of stress and adapts it to deal with another are being
studied and proven
as an effective
way of handling
and anxiety. In
I am based, we
are lucky enough
to have a major
advocate of the
scientific benefits to
cold water swimming
Dr Mark Harper, who has
been involved in the research of the
impact on these extreme environments on the body with trials taking place in the city. From his research, Dr Harper has found sustained and gradual reductions in the symptoms of depression.
From Lewis Pugh’s recent length of the Channel swim to Ross Edgley’s current attempt to swim around the entirety of mainland Great Britain, the prominenceof long-distance swims has certainly received attention in the media. Ross cites how your psychology affects your immune system and entering the water with a positive mentality helps gain more of the benefits from the swim.
Whilst there aren’t many of us who attempt such epic endurance swims, these stories can definitely go some way to encouraging many people’s first steps into the open water, into the colder months and without a wetsuit. As we move into the months where the water temperatures begin decreasing again, now is the perfect time to begin an acclimatisation to the cooler waters. I am a swimmer who swims exclusively in skins and I enjoy experiencing the thrill of the cold water fully enveloping my body as I swim year-round. A recent swim I undertook (along with Simon Griffiths from the magazine) from
a windfarm 8 miles off the coast of Brighton and back to the mainland was a great day of swimming back towards home and a feat you can reach too once you get started in the world of open water swimming.
Tips for the cold without a wetsuit
START SLOW: when first getting used to the cold, ease yourself into short, regular dips and build from there. Try and start getting in when the water temperature starts to fall and “hang in there” when it gets low!
JOIN A CLUB or just swim with others: the encouragement from others can keep you going as the temperatures begin to drop. Year-round open water swimmers are an incredible, eclectic bunch and will certainly inspire you to get wet even when you don’t feel like it.
BREATHE! Echoing the RNLI’s ‘Respect the Water’ campaign, do bear the risks of cold water in mind. Cold water shock can cause you to gasp uncontrollably, so make sure you focus on getting your breaths in at a regular rate. If you do feel your rapid breathing starting to panic you, float on your back until you return to a normal breathing pattern.
Though a big fan of the cold water, my recent travels have taken me to Vietnam guiding on SwimTrek’s new departure around Lan Ha Bay and further afield scouting new trips. It’s all about balance!