If you decide to swim outside of a recognised venue (and also if you swim at one), Beyond Swim have shared with us some top tips to boost your safety.
Get cool first
And we don’t mean personality-wise; we can’t help you with that one!
What we can help with, however, is advising you to take a cold shower or have a cold bath. You need only do this for around 2-3 minutes to feel the effects, but it allows your body to naturally acclimatise to the change in temperature without going into complete shock.
Believe us, as soon as your body hits the cold open water you’re going to feel it!
Don’t go it alone – let a friend enjoy (endure) too!
If you must feel the freeze, why not force one of your mates to join you? We jest, but with all our open swimming advice, you must always take someone else with you for extra safety precautions.
They aren’t going to warm you up much unless you snuggle up to one another, but they will serve as extra support should you need it - if anyone gets into a crisis, there is an additional person on hand to call the emergency services.
What do you need to wear?
Open water swimming isn’t as simple as popping on your favourite pair of Speedos and winging it, especially when dipping into colder waters.
The human body is incredible, but it isn’t designed to withstand extreme levels of cold for long periods of time without some protection or barrier between the cold. Think about whether you’re best wearing a full-body swimsuit/bodysuit or if you need gloves or booties, and rash vests are always a good shout when contending with the cold.
Know where you’re swimming
Only ever attempt to cold open water swim in an area you are familiar with. You should check areas where it is easy to exit and ensure you know what the current is like. It’s also worthwhile assessing the weather situation beforehand. We know it’s cold, but drastic weather changes with wind or rain could disrupt the current and make your swimming experience far harder, if not dangerous, so always be cautious of your full surroundings.
With this in mind, we also suggest swimming on a warm sunny day beforehand to test the waters and get used to them. However, we appreciate that the idea of a “warm sunny day” is a bit of an enigma in the UK right now.
Get a post-dip base kit ready
Does anyone remember those cold winter mornings when your P.E. teacher would still force you to run 5km of cross country in little more than a pair of shorts and a t-shirt, and you couldn’t feel your hands afterwards?
Yeah, well, that’s how you will feel following cold open water swimming.
Not to put anyone off, as it is a fantastic experience when you know what you’re doing, but the dexterity in your hands may suffer as a result. Get your clothes, shoes, food, towels, and anything to warm up with laid out in advance and close to where you’ll be swimming. This way, you don’t have to fumble through a bag or try to locate items with jelly fingers.
Know your limits and control your breathing
The cold water may shock you at first, and you may feel sensations of pain, but it is important to breathe through this and regulate your breathing. The pain will subside quickly, but take long, deep breaths, which will aid your comfort faster.
If you’re swimming with people who have cold water swum before, do not push your limits to meet theirs. Get out of the water well before you’re ready. You may feel fine while swimming, but as the body continues to cool even after you have gotten out, you may be in a worse situation if you’re not careful.
After being exposed to the cold, treat yourself to a warm mug of tea or coffee and pack lots of sugary snacks.
We’re not dietitians, but once your body has plummeted to cold depths, it will need some energy to warm you up fast, and sugar is your number one source.
Also, get dressed as soon as possible; your body will keep cooling even after you have left the water, so be sure to bundle up in as much warm clothing as possible to regulate your temperature.
About Beyond Swim
Beyond Swim’s mission is to support open water swimming venues to help swimmers and wannabe swimmers get active in the water safely. They do this by providing accreditation to venues based on their processes and protocols, so swimmers can enjoy their swim (or dip) knowing that it is as safe as possible.
Open water swimming has inherent risks and will never be risk free, so a Beyond Swim venue is the best place to take part in the Icebreaker Challenge in the knowledge that your safety is in trusted hands.
Remember, however you take part in the Icebreaker Challenge, safety should be at the forefront of your swim.