It’s for sure that at first glance, cold water and fun do not really seem to mix...
If we were to ask you, for example, what comes to mind when you hear the words "water" and "well-being", it is likely that some of you imagine the clear sea water of a Caribbean hot spring or the massaging whirlpools of a jacuzzi. And in both cases, the water temperature doesn't tend to dip below 27°C!
There is no doubt that bathing in warm or temperate water will give us, at the time and for a while after, a feeling of euphoria. But did you know that choosing cold water would allow you to perpetuate this state of mind in the long run?
Believe us, if you take all the necessary precautions, dips in good old cold water will give you unexpected physical and psychological benefits!
Let's go through the details of this clever way to look after your body (and mind)!
THE BENEFITS OF COLD WATER
Have you heard of "Loony Dook" or the "Polar Bear Plunge"? Or other groups of intrepid swimmers who wait for winter to seek out the virtues of cold water? Sometimes cold water plunges or sea swimming are paired with breathing techniques like the “Wim Hof Method” which you may have already heard of too.
Despite what you might think, it is indeed true that cold water has real benefits for blood circulation, the immune system and also your mood, to name just a few. The cold water will refuel your organs by nourishing and draining your cells, and thus stimulating blood circulation.
This environment is also conducive to the development and increase of lymphocytes in your body, which will strengthen your immune system. Regular cold water swimmers are often less prone to colds and other respiratory infections.
Experts are united in promoting the psychological benefits of taking a little dip or paddle in cold water, or even a cold shower! It causes your body to release lots of endorphins (the famous happiness hormone) and has a radical influence in reducing pain and inflammation, which is perfect for athletes or sports lovers.
As a bonus, cold water is a powerful way to burn calories by forcing your metabolism to work harder under the stress of temperature.So say goodbye to any bad fat and bad moods!
Note: for even more benefits, the best thing is cold seawater! Seawater is well known for its anti-anxiety, euphoric and antidepressant properties. Not to mention the amazing communities forming around sea swimming and cold water dips year-round and even Christmas Day Sea Swims! Cold water is literally uniting people, who’d have thought?
WHO CAME UP WITH COLD WATER SWIMMING?
Swimming in cold water is beginning to becoming increasingly popular sport in Ireland. But, if we travel a little further north to Scandinavia, we can see that this trend has already become a very well established sport in recent years in its own right.
In Finland in particular, swimming in icy lakes is not unusual, quite the opposite. This common activity is very beneficial for health and also helps to clear the mind. And, apparently, when the Finns throw themselves into the water, it's no joke! Several times a year, more than 150,000 of them take part in cold water races.
Their Norwegian neighbours get up to similar icy antics by swimming—sometimes over very long distances—across the Fjords, where the water hovers at a chilly 6°C…
CERTAIN PRECAUTIONS TO TAKE:
It is of course important to be aware that cold water puts stress on the body!
Even if your body has an impressive ability to adapt, and can acclimatise to cold waters faster than you think, don't go throwing yourself heart and soul into the frozen waters without thinking.
IS THERE ANYTHING I SHOULD DO BEFORE TRYING SEA SWIMMING?
Firstly, if you like the sound of this discipline, it is recommended that you consult your doctor to eliminate any health concerns. Once declared fit, do not make the mistake of rushing into it. Getting used to cold water plunges or dips before swimming in cold water. Takes time before progressing and, like any sport, training, to avoid any risks.
WHERE DO I START WITH SEA SWIMMING?
Our advice would be to start in temperate water—the sea, a lake or other body of water—at the end of the summer. Then, continue your swimming habits into the autumn and winter, so that your body gradually gets used to the drop in temperature. For this to work, you should be getting out there fairly regularly.
As for getting into the water, the principle remains the same, immerse yourself gradually, remembering to wet the back of your neck first. Hyperventilation is normal at first. Breathe out slowly to get your body gradually used to the cold.
HOW LONG SHOULD YOU STAY IN THE WATER?
We would recommend to start of with 3-4 minutes cold water plunges and slowly increase to longer timeframes, progressing to swimming if this is your goal, or up to 30 minutes if .
WHAT SHOULD I WEAR WHEN SEA SWIMMING?
Now would be a good time to mention the Irish weather, our sea temperature can get quite chilly too. Be prepared, especially in colder months.
Some people might opt for a wetsuit, particularly if swimming, but for Cold Water Plunges, your standard swimming costume is sufficient for most people and it allows you to be fully exposed to the cold waters’ temperature.
If this is too much, try to opt for keeping your extremities warm(er). Neoprene boots and gloves will help hold on to some body heat, keeping your fingers and toes from getting too cold.
If you are still struggling at this point, you might choose a light wetsuit to help with the temperature, you will still benefit from the cold water plunge in a wetsuit.
WHAT ABOUT GETTING OUT OF THE WATER?
When you leave the water, let your body shiver. This reaction is quite normal and is designed to get your blood flowing to your extremities. Surf ponchos are a great option for practically drying off and changing quickly to get some eat back into your body, but a flask of tea or coffee will most definitely help.
You are now a theoretical cold water swimming pro. Next it's time to put it into practice! What do you say?