Swimming in the Wild – How and Why to Brave the Cold
If lapping your local pool has lost its allure, try wild swimming. It is a great way to break up the routine and find adventure in the outdoors even in cold temperatures. In fact, colder climates offer additional health benefits that come from plunging into freezing water.
Last year, the world was stunned by one man’s swim around Great Britain, and his feat surely added to the recent popularity of cold water swimming. However, the practice has been enjoyed for centuries and it does not need to be nearly as extreme. In fact, just a quick dip in freezing water can have great effects on the body and mind.
Boost your immunity
“The last time I had the flu was 25 years ago,” boasts Jitka Tauferova, 76, a cold water swimmer portrayed in a Time Magazine article on the subject.
According to research, short-term whole body exposure to extreme cold results in increased resistance to illness. Cold water swimmers, such as Jitka, swear by the practice’s effect on the immune system, and furthermore, immersion in freezing water can even help cure difficult cases of chronic pain.
Swimming in cold water supercharges your metabolism as there are two types of fat in your body: white and brown. The latter’s job is to keep the organism warm and there is no better way to activate it than plunging into icy water. Tapping into the body’s brown fat resources increases the metabolic rate up-to 40 percent.
On top of this, cold water baths may improve your hormonal balance, ensuring that you burn calories at an appropriate rate and stay lean.
Boost your mood
Time spent in nature is proven to reduce stress levels, and open water swimming does just that. The cold also gives you that special “alive” feeling caused by a sudden rush of endorphins in your brain.
Some cold water enthusiasts claim that swimming has helped them get through a particularly rough patch in life. “It saved me,” says Ella Foote, a writer who discovered cold water swimming when she was struggling with depression.
Regardless of your circumstances, discovering a new, beautiful outdoor swimming spot is rejuvenating for both body and soul.
To avoid the risks associated with the cold shock response, it is very important to acclimate to low temperatures slowly. Swimming with a buddy ensures your safety and makes the experience more fun. You might also want to start in warmer months and continue as the temperatures drop.
Make sure to warm up before entering the water, just as you would do before a workout. If you are only going for a quick dip, you can keep your head above water and even wear a hat to keep in heat.
After exiting the water, your body temperature will continue to drop. Dry off, put warm clothing on, and have a hot drink. Do not drive before you feel warm again.
If you want to learn from more experienced cold water swimmers, there are many small winter bathing societies dotted around the country, most notably the oldest, Coney Island Polar Bear Club.