If you’re based anywhere in the UK right now, you’ve probably experienced the utterly arctic weather conditions of the past couple of weeks. We’re all starting to miss those heatwaves right about now!
One thing is for sure: although it’s warmed up slightly, it’s gonna be cold this Christmas!
And considering this, we want to remind all eager open water swimmers of the safety tips you must remember before taking a cold water dip on Christmas Day.
You might be thinking, “who on earth goes cold water swimming on Christmas Day?” – after all, Christmas Day is a time for a lot of things not to do with exercise.
As it happens, cold water swimming on Christmas Day is a popular activity for many. Brighton Swimming Club has been known for their festive dips since 1860! There is usually an array of organised swims across the country, and even across the world for Christmas Day and Boxing Day swims – people really love getting in the water and burning off those festive calories.
These events are mainly arranged by professional swimming organisations who provide guidance and safety protocols for their swimmers, making them a safer option for those looking to brave the cold. For those of you who want to plan an independent swim this Christmas, be sure to follow cold water safety guidance. Here’s some top tips…
Cold Water Swimming Safety Guidance
- 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.
- Treat yourself
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.
A Holly Jolly Christmas from All of Us at Beyond Swim
We hope you have the best time possible, whichever way you spend your Christmas this year.
We’ll keep you updated on all the exciting events we’ll be hosting throughout 2023 and be sure to check out our amazing Beyond Swim Accredited Venues over the winter to find a safe place to swim.
If you’re still stuck for Christmas gifts – how about treating someone to a Beyond Swim Pass, where they can access all our venues and take advantage of their beautiful locations and facilities?
Have the merriest of Christmases and a marvellous New Year!