It’s not summer anymore, temperatures are dropping by the day. What might have started out as a bit of fun and something to raise a smile after lockdown is now starting to need a wee bit of preparation, determination and for others, some extra neoprene.
There are folk contemplating continuing and some considering leaving it until next year when the Beatles song ‘Here comes the sun’ can be be heard on the radio.
I have been lucky enough to be swimming outside through a couple winters and definitely think colder is better. This is not macho BS either as the most hardcore, cold water, ice smashing swimmers I have met are female.
Honestly swimming in warm water is fun, but when it gets under ten degrees my smile gets bigger.
I hope newbie wild swimmers will have met a bunch of happy, compassionate, regular swimmers during their new submerged journey. These folk won’t laugh if your costume is retired for a few cold months and I guarantee you will receive the same warm greeting you received the first and the second time and every time you meet on the waters edge. The same folk that didn’t push you past scary depths or comfort zones will show the same benevolence on your return. Stopping because its cold is not a fail. We are all different and that’s one of the things getting in lochs has made me aware of. We are all disparate and should rejoice, instead of being desperate to conform. Swimming outdoors enhances folk, I know it makes me a better person.
When the heatless light of the winter sun only appears for a fraction of the a day, folk will find petrol and time are expensive commodities not to be wasted for a short bone numbing swim. Local lochs, reservoirs and even ponds that were disregarded as not exotic enough for the Gram and other social media whoring, are now treated with a wee bit respect, as their temperatures drop faster than larger prominent stretches of peaty dark water. The race to smash ice begins.
Lubnaig is about 12 degrees just now. Under 10 you will notice a massive difference and there will be less swimming across to the other side. Sensible folk will start swimming up and down closer to the cafe. Hot drinks, a wooly hat, big socks and multiple roasty toasty warm layers will be required to be fired on in a sort of panic after a dip in the water. These will have to be organised with preparation that would melt the heart of the most frigid tortured OCD victim.
If yer serious and curious to see how far or
how low you can go. Read this dude’s blog:-
Don’t read the odd bit, read every post in the cold water bible and not just once, a couple times. Gain an understanding of the following:-
Why yer fingers might start spreading out?
What is the after drop?
Why you might start shaking?
Why yer in trouble if you start to feel warm in the water? (and not just because you peed in your wet suit.)
This Irish dude is far more eloquent, educated, experienced and more able to help you than I can bumping my gums and tapping on my phone putting my thoughts down in print.
I am not trying to pull the plug on yer new past time, just trying to prepare you for a different type swimming. Winter swimming is less focused on distance and more concentrated on effects of hypothermia. Sounds terrifying but I promise you they will be more intense and have the potential of greater fun and larger belly laughs than the warmer swimming months.
I had the good fortune of spending time with an inspiring outdoor swimming legend a couple years ago and my good swimming buddy enjoyed his first swim in the snow with him. The legend’s words that day have stimulated many an adventure since and will not be forgotten ” This is real swimming boys, anybody can swim in the summer. “
It might not be for everyone but for me I would trade a warm 2 hour 5km swim down a Loch for a break the ice 10 minute swim any day. Maybe that’s due to my lack of stamina but mostly because of the endorphin rush and serene calm getting warm after the cold swim that makes my lips turn into a smile before I even wake up most days. Honestly, my wife has watched me sleeping and is amazed I wake up smiling if not laughing with only one thought, getting in a Loch.
After years of badgering, a very good friend recently discovered the joys of wild swimming. They described it as “life is swimming, everything else is waiting to get in the water”
When the water temperature is under 5 degrees it becomes some sort of self-torture. The cold penetrates layers of wine, cake and chocolate to gnaw at your bones. It’s sore and what I imagine a death laser might feel like if you failed to save the world and dodge the evil bawbag arch enemy in a James Bond type demise. An ice breaking swim though will make you feel like a universe saving super hero once you start to warm up after your swim.
And this is why some astute doctors are prescribing cold water swimming for depression and it is being reported that it is helping to reduce some folk’s dependency on the Happy pills.
Some trunks and bikini wearers fire on a pair of neoprene socks and gloves as the temperatures drop as it reduces the severe pain in the extremities. I did this, until one day I stayed in too long on my tod and kind of gave myself a fright. I think the rubber protection fooled my brain into thinking my body was warmer or my core was cooling slower than it actually was. I now go without gloves and socks unless fully wetsuited up, so my brain and body are both on the same wavelength. This is not a prohibition warning, just some things to be aware of.
Swimming outside through the winter is hard work. Its sore and cold plus it needs lots of preparation, but it’s worth every minute of the torture. The rush of endorphins as you spend the longest 3 minutes of your life submerged is exhilaratingly and life affirming. The hypothermic shakes are scary the first few times but for me it’s the feeling of calm afterwards as you gain warmth back into your core. It is like the combining a 1000 of yer best yoga shavasanas with a 1000 cups of chamomile tea.
You might regret it, but the chances are you will be smiling for the rest of the day if not the week. There will be a few new swimmers dreading the dropping temperatures but I am truly excited about it and can’t wait to break ice to get into the water.