I’ve been open water swimming for a number of years, usually swimming from April - October outside & then pool swimming through winter once the temperatures dropped. I had heard about winter swimming and seen/read about people who do it and wondered if I would be able to do it too.
I did an introduction to winter swimming in November 2020 which was incredibly useful, learning so much about how to safely swim in cold water and so my aim was to swim right through winter… and then lockdown happened again so the plan/dream was out on hold for a while longer.
When I saw the Her Spirit winter swimming challenge last year it seemed like the perfect time to try, so I found a local group to swim with, put away my wetsuit, bought some boots & gloves & began my cold water swimming journey.
My swims/dips soon became the highlight of my week, and I found the colder the water got, the more I loved it! The support, encouragement and friendships I made are what has made winter swimming so important to me - finding a group of likeminded people to share laughs and cake with is priceless. We often swim for just a few minutes, especially as the temperature drops and you have to listen to your body; but the benefits of even just a minute in cold water are huge.
Being someone who swims fairly long distances on my own during the warmer months, it was a really lovely change to be heads up swimming/chatting with others. The Her Spirit community was also brilliant for support, advice & I’ve made loads of news friends too, plus we keep each other motivated to get our weekly swim minutes in to complete the challenge.
Some highlights were breaking the ice on my first ever ice swim (0.8°c), night swimming under a full moon in January, sunrise dips on a Sunday morning, the post swim hot chocolate & cake with lovely friends & the laughs/squeals as we realise how cold the water is.
The benefits of cold water swimming really helped me both physically & mentally to deal with some of my peri menopause symptoms too which was an unexpected bonus; it soothes my sore/aching joints, helps me deal with hot flushes and the post-swim “high” is a great mood lifter; so much so that I now have an ice bath in the garden so that I can get into cold water every day or when it’s not possible to swim.
Needless to say I’ll be planning on swimming through winter again this year and I would encourage anyone to give it a try, so if you are wondering if you can do it, my top tips would be;
1. Get to an introduction to winter swimming session if you can, you will learn some vital info on how to safely do it.
2. Find a group to swim with; there are so many winter swim groups out there and this was key to me swimming right through winter last year - having others there to chat to, laugh with & share cake makes all the difference!
3. My neoprene gloves/boots were definitely what helped me to deal with the dropping temperatures more easily and these are always in my kit bag now.
My plan is to swim right through winter again and after being inspired by “The Merthyr Mermaid” I’m going to look into training for an ice mile in the future so watch this space…