By: Blonde Two
I have still not quite worked out the difference between wild swimming and outdoor swimming; it’s January and as far as I can feel, all of the water is cold so what I have been doing must be winter swimming!
I’ve been swimming regularly in the sea now since early December and I have to say it has been a most welcome addition to my outside experiences. Chilly swims leave me tingling, slightly hyperactive and longing for more (I understand that this is the endorphins!) I have been learning a few wild swimming logistical tips along the way and thought I might share them with you:
1. Don’t get cold feet
By this I am not referring to standing on the side and refusing to get in (this is actually perfectly acceptable). Rather I am talking about tootsies and how it is possible to stop them from freezing off. I have tried wetsuit booties (really warm but float so much I can’t kick my legs), cheap swim shoes (not so warm but good to swim in) and bare feet (toes a kind of green colour afterwards). I by far prefer bare feet but that depends on what is underfoot.
2. Take your time
I try to swim with a watch or with someone who has actually remembered their watch. Something weird happens to time when you are in cold water, what seems like half an hour always turns out to be only twelve minutes. Which is a good thing because after 12 minutes it takes a wee while to warm up post swim. I am trying to build up my resistance and managed 15 minutes on Saturday, I predict things will have improved by August!
3. Bras are not strictly necessary
Changing under a towel or inside a dry-robe can be tricky enough, what with cold, salty fingers and hair/camera strap/general arm tangling, without having to struggle with a piece of uncompromising wired nylon. I have discovered (and this is a revelation to me) that it is fine to leave my bra at home. To be honest I put so many layers on after a swim that nobody would even notice (except maybe during the post-swim warm-up jog!) Don’t even ask me about the knickers!
4. Be friendly
I have found that my most preferred state when I am swimming is to be with other like-minded people. It is by far the safest approach to sea-swimming and I have had some lovely laughing, contemplative and clowning around moments with my new friends. I have always thought that there is something about the great outdoors that makes people a pleasure to be with, and swimming is no exception. There are wild swimming groups all over the UK, try finding a nearby Facebook group if you want to find one.
5. Just say ‘yes’!
I have now been winter outdoor swimming before dawn, at moonrise, in the rain, in the waves, in the sunshine in a pancake flat sea, under a waterfall, in a stream and (nearly) in some caves. I am not talking about compromising safety here, there is nothing wrong with doing your own personal risk assessment as you go along, but I have discovered that swimming life is far more rewarding if you say ‘yes’ to people’s suggestions (particularly the suggestion that the water is warmer than the day before!)
It would take a whole extra blog post (and then some) to explain to you how good the cold water, the logistics and the friends are making me feel. Maybe I will one day…