If you are new to the world of cold water swimming, then no doubt you will have a few apprehensions before your first dip. There are many joys and benefits ahead of you, both mental and physical, so it’s well worth braving those first few icy moments in the water. Here are some tips to make your first cold water plunge go swimmingly.
Make sure that you have the right kit
Whether you are swimming to get fit enough for a triathlon or just looking for a way to have fun or de-stress, you will get the most out of your efforts if you have the right gear. A wetsuit is recommended if you are not used to being immersed in cold water to provide some insulation and extra buoyancy in the water.
A swim cap will help you to remain visible in the open water to lifeguards and other swimmers, and goggles will protect your eyes from particles in the water and help you to see clearly.
Find a swim buddy
It’s advisable to swim with a friend or in a group for your first few dips in cold water. This makes your swim more fun and enjoyable, and can be a great source of motivation and moral support. It’s also a good idea just in case you do get into any difficulties to have someone on hand to help.
Do some warm up exercises
Do some gentle stretching exercises to get the blood pumping around the body before you get in the water. Just as with any other form of exercise, this helps to warm up the muscles, making you feel more supple and reducing the risk of injuries.
Deep breathing exercises are also beneficial to help you relax and balance your oxygen levels.
Get in the water gradually
Don’t try diving in the water head first, as this may trigger cold water shock. Sudden exposure to cold temperatures can cause sharp changes in heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. Even relatively mild water of between 10-15 C can trigger symptoms such as gasping for breath, loss of muscle coordination and the onset of hypothermia.
Entering the water gradually will give your body time to acclimatise to the change in temperature. If you do experience the symptoms of cold water shock, try to relax and float with your head tilted back, and call for help if you are able to.
Find a depth you are comfortable with
There’s no need to wade out into the depths on your first swim. Even if you are already an experienced indoor pool swimmer, open water swimming conditions can feel very different. The water may be choppier and faster moving in places, as well as much colder than you are previously accustomed to.
Build up your confidence levels gradually and use a swim stroke you feel comfortable with. Don’t feel any pressure to push yourself out of your comfort zone until you are ready and fully acclimatised to the conditions.