Cold water swimming, benefits for body and mind
Our Ambassador Laura Owen discusses the many benefits of cold water swimming and recommends following an exposure schedule to gradually acclimate to the cold temperatures with Lifeguard Training.
Swimming in water below 15ºC, without lanes, without chlorine and in direct contact with nature, refreshes the whole body and provides a unique open water swimming experience.
Although at first glance cold water swimming may seem like an activity only for a select few adventurous athletes, the reality is that this discipline is accessible to everyone. With a little physical and mental preparation, swimming in cold temperatures can bring many benefits, such as recharging your batteries.
ADVANTAGES OF COLD WATER SWIMMING
1. It stimulates metabolism. Brown fat, or adipose tissue, is activated by cold water and helps maintain body temperature. At the same time, calories are burned.
2. It has an analgesic effect. Cold water constricts the arteries, reduces possible inflammation and relieves sore muscles.
3. It strengthens the immune system. Regular exposure to cold water increases levels of antioxidant glutathione, thereby regulating the antioxidant process.
4. It increases libido. Studies on the effects of cold water show that it increases testosterone production, which increases libido and sex drive in men.
5. It increases fitness. Exposing yourself to the elements in difficult conditions is hard work and good physical training.
6. It improves lymphatic circulation. The cold water forces the lymphatic vessels to constrict, causing the lymphatic fluid to be pumped throughout the body.
7. It creates mental clarity. Getting the circulation going means more clarity and better focus.
8. It reduces stress levels. When we go into cold water, endorphins are released as the body compensates with its own “pain relief”.
9. It promotes recovery. Cold water stimulates the parasympathetic nervous system, which induces a feeling of well-being and contentment.
PREPARE FOR COLD WATER SWIMMING
Regular and gradual exposure to cold water allows your body to acclimate over time. This means you can stay in the water longer. And if you’ve spent the winter on dry land and not in the water, you can follow this acclimatization guide over the next two weeks to slowly adjust to the cold temperatures.
Regulate your breathing: Try box breathing.
Day 1-3: Take a cold shower for 30 seconds.
Day 6: Take a 1-minute cold bath. Submerge your head under water.
Day 7-8: Shower for a minute and a half.
Day 9: Take a two-minute cold bath. Submerge your head under water.
Day 10-11: Take a cold shower for two minutes and 30 seconds, also getting your head wet.
Day 12-14: Alternate between cold baths and three-minute cold showers.
Remember that it is extremely important to practice breathing regulation before and during to avoid breathing too quickly.
BE SURE TO WARM UP IMMEDIATELY AFTER COLD WATER WORKOUT
In addition to all the things that you should consider when swimming in cold water, you must not neglect the follow-up to the training. Experts emphasize that after leaving the water, the body cools down for about 20-30 minutes. This means your body temperature will be cooler 20-30 minutes after your swim than it was at the end of your open water workout.
It is important to warm up immediately after swimming. Dry yourself and remove your wet clothes as soon as possible. Quickly change into warm clothing, including gloves and thick socks. And before you get back to your usual routine, have a hot drink, take a deep breath and see how you feel. Undoubtedly, you will feel a pleasant feeling of well-being throughout your body.
ABOUT LAURA OWEN
When her doctor advised her to take cold showers because of a health issue, Laura Owen decided to swim instead. She researched the benefits of cold water swimming and was soon hooked. A passionate adventurer and environmentalist, Laura wanted to share all that cold water swimming had brought her to the public and decided to start We Swim Wild, an organization that advocates for cold water swimming and promotes environmental awareness. Part of her involvement focuses on water quality in the UK, which is why she calls herself a “waterlogger”. The Welsh Ambassador is not only the founder of We Swim Wild, but also an active environmental activist, lecturer and artist.
ABOUT WE SWIM WILD
We Swim Wild conducts water expeditions based on previous research with the goal of effecting governmental change and raising awareness of environmental issues. The work focuses on actions that make the pollution of the rivers and seas visible in and around Great Britain. To raise awareness of this issue, Laura took on a challenge this year: to swim 1,000km through all of the national parks in the UK to check for microplastic pollution in the water in those parks.