Open Water Swimming in the Winter

Open water swimming enjoyed a huge surge in popularity this past summer. As COVID-19 forced swimming pools to shut their doors, once lockdown eased both experienced swimmers and first-timers headed to their local lakes, rivers and the sea to enjoy some much-needed aquatic activity. Swimming isn’t only an essential life skill – it’s great exercise, and a fabulous way to boost your physical and mental wellbeing. But don’t just take our word for it – there’s official data to prove it. According to a recent report by Swim England, swimming helps to save the health and social care system more than £357 million a year.

First, the obvious stuff: swimming burns lots of calories, while putting very little stress on the body, which is great news if you’re not in the first flush of youth, prone to injury, or suffer from joint problems. So it really is an activity that suits all ages, abilities and fitness levels. Swimming also works all the major muscles, in addition to the heart and lungs, to improve your cardiovascular capacity. There’s plenty of evidence to show that regular swimming can even help to protect against heart disease, stroke, and Type 2 diabetes.

All of which is brilliant from a physical point of view. But did you know that swimming can help to safeguard your mental health too? Swim England’s report found that adults who swim are 4.3% happier than non-swimmers. And let’s face it, in troubled times like these, we all need as much happiness as possible in our lives! Importantly, swimming outdoors more than doubles this happiness boost. So don’t let the approach of winter – and the fear of cold water – put you off open water swimming. Done safely, it really is a year-round activity.

The health benefits of cold water
Cold water is good for you in so many ways. For starters, it can boost your immune system, helping your body to produce more white blood cells, and more antioxidants. It boosts your circulation, and fires up your metabolism, so you burn more calories faster. Cold water swimming also activates endorphins, to create a natural high. And it stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), which in turn promotes feelings of contentment and relaxation, helping you to de-stress and sleep better. Last but not least, there’s a great sense of community and camaraderie among cold water swimmers, so it’s a wonderful way to socialise and make new friends (while respecting COVID-19 guidelines, naturally).

Safety first
Whether you’re an accomplished pool swimmer, an experienced open water swimmer, or a curious beginner, safety is paramount. Like all sports, cold winter swimming has risks that must be managed. So use your common sense, and know your limits.

First and foremost, never swim on your own. Make sure you can enter and exit the water quickly and easily, and always acclimatise gradually. Never just jump right in, or you run the risk of cold water shock.

The right kit is essential, too, both during and after your swim. Some hardy souls swim “skins” (no wetsuit) all year round, but a well-fitting wetsuit and even neoprene gloves and swim socks really do help with warmth and buoyancy. We also recommend a bright tow float/swim buoy for every open water swim, regardless of location or time of year. After your swim, to avoid “afterdrop” you’ll need to warm up slowly and gradually. Think lots of easy layers (no fiddly fastenings), a woolly hat, and a warm drink to sip.

Open water coaching
Keen to give cold water swimming a go, but not sure where/how to start? We offer a range of open water coaching, designed for both experienced and aspiring triathletes, and for recreational pool swimmers keen to make the transition outdoors. Throughout the winter, we run specialist Cold Water Swimming Introduction Sessions, to help all levels of swimmers to safely enjoy the physical and mental health benefits of open water swimming. Click here to book. If you need a confidence boost before attempting a cold water swim, why not book a 1-2-1 session in our endless pool, to help you fine-tune your technique first? You can even try before you buy with our professional wetsuit fitting service, to make sure you’re fully prepared in every way to get the most out of your open water swimming, wherever and whenever you do it.

Want to find out more about cold water swim coaching, and all the other services we offer? Give us a call on 01702 547936 or email