Beginners guide to wild swimming

My love for wild swimming first blossomed when I went for a swim in a loch with my mum when I was 17. I remember it being a really tough year, and like any introvert teenager I wasn’t very good at communicating with my mum. She swam outdoors regularly and she asked me to join her for a swim one night after school. I remember it being the first time in ages I laughed uncontrollably, we bobbed around for what felt like ages just giggling at each other. I felt so good after it, I had to go again, and again.

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So, what is wild swimming?

Open water swimming or wild swimming is essentially swimming in outdoor bodies of water such as lochs, rivers or the sea. It’s cold, it’s exhilarating and there are also many health benefits to support the rising trend. A lot of people ask me how I don’t get ill from the cold, which I think is a common misunderstanding that being cold gives you a cold. Wild swimming actually improves your immune system, betters your circulation and there have been heaps of studies to prove that wild swimming also relieves depression. The overruling release for me, and I think for most people is the tsunami of endorphins that hit during and after a swim. Cold-water swimming awakens every inch of my body, and after a swim – I feel strong and alive.

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What to wear?

I tend to swim only in a swimming costume. If I want to stay in the water any longer than 10 minutes I’ll also wear neoprene socks and gloves, and sometimes a swimming cap (or two)! Some practical suggestions if you are new to wild swimming include:

  1. Wearing a swimming cap or neoprene hood; most heat escapes through the head, so this makes a big difference.
  2. Neoprene socks and gloves, or wetsuit booties. This also makes getting in and out of the water a bit easier if it’s rocky.
  3. And if the cold is a bit to cold for bare skin straight away, get in there with a wetsuit on. Wetsuits provide a lot of extra buoyancy, so if you fancy bobbing around for a little longer this is a good option.
  4. If you plan to swim any distance it is also a good idea to tow an inflatable marker/float with you. It makes you much easier to spot from afar.

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First steps

  1. Ask someone to come with you. Whether they want to swim or just hold your towel, it is peace of mind.
  2. Find a safe location, somewhere you know you can get in and more importantly out of the water with ease.
  3. Consider the tide; don’t swim anywhere where you could potentially be swept out to sea.
  4. Ease yourself in, take your time – have a splash around and a few breaststrokes. Overtime the body acclimatises and you can stay in much longer without feeling so cold.
  5. Breathe! When your body isn’t used to it, the cold can feel like it’s taking your breath away. Breathe slowly and it will help keep you calm.
  6. Don’t stay in too long!

Wrap up afterwards. You experience a warm tingly feeling when you come out of cold water (the best feeling ever), but this doesn’t necessarily mean you are warm. Warm up slowly with lots of layers, and a cup of tea!

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People will probably tell you that you’re mad. I get it all the time! But if I could choose to do one thing every day for the rest of my life, it would be this. Mad or not!

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