Winter swimming: How to get started
Are you one of those who have been wondering whether winter swimming is for you? Maybe you've even brushed it off and thought it wasn't for you. Before you rule it out completely, read more about the many benefits and get some advice on winter swimming.
There's no doubt that winter swimming has become increasingly popular in recent years, and more people are getting up the nerve to try out the cold thrill. Although taking off your winter layers and stepping out into the icy winter waters can be a daunting task in itself, it's important to remember that winter swimming has many benefits, both for the body and the mind. Below, we'll summarise just what it can do and, most importantly, give you the key facts about winter swimming.
Why is winter swimming healthy?
Jumping into the icy water will give you many health benefits. Studies show that winter swimmers have fewer sick days than others and generally feel healthier. Of course, it can be hard to tell whether it's the healthiest people who winter swim, or whether winter swimming makes you healthier. However, there are several explanations as to why winter swimming is healthy.
What does winter swimming do to your body?
When you expose your body to the cold water, the cold temperatures activate the immune system. As a result, your adrenaline level increases, which can ultimately help protect your body from various infections. Not only that, but a dip in the waves can also help prevent type 2 diabetes and strengthen your heart in the long term. So right here, you already have a few good reasons to become a winter swimmer.
It's not just health benefits you get from winter swimming. Once you've jumped into the cold, your body releases endorphins, which have a positive effect on your mood and mental state. In this sense, winter swimming gives you good energy and many winter swimmers describe it as a source of happiness and sense of well-being.
Nowadays, we often have to be in many places at once and always have our phones with us. When you are winter swimming, you need to be present in the moment, and being in nature and experiencing it can feel like a kind of medicine. All senses are awake, which gives a nice sense of calm and presence. It puts the word health in a whole new perspective, says Pia Fosnæs, personal trainer.
Getting started with winter swimming
There are many ways you can approach winter swimming. Basically, you can start whenever you want, but the official season runs from October to April. If this is your first season as a winter swimmer, it is recommended that you start as early as August or September, so that your body can slowly get used to the cooler temperatures.
Are you a beginner?
As a beginner, you may want to join a club instead. Here you will be able to try winter swimming safely and meet others who have tried it before and can guide you along the way. It may seem difficult to cope with the chilly temperatures at first, but a good tip is to avoid just standing and dipping your feet in. Once you're at the water, it's about getting under quickly - as easy as it sounds.
How long should you stay in the water?
So how long do you actually have to stay in the water once you get in? Now, winter swimming is generally not long, and the first few times you should stick to short dips of 5-10 seconds. Then you can gradually extend the time. The more experienced winter swimmer stays in the water for up to 40 seconds, but the body doesn't really need anything more than to get in and then out again.
Be well prepared
Before you really get into the water, it's a good idea to get your winter swimming clothes ready. It's not that winter swimming requires a lot of equipment. For a start, you may not need more than swimwear and a towel. If you find that you truly are a winter swimmer at heart, you may want to add a few things, for your own comfort in the long run.
Accessories for winter swimming
First of all, you'll probably find it helpful to have a pair of bathing shoes that can insulate against the cool temperatures around your feet, both before and after the dip. During the swim itself, you may need a hat, especially for the particularly cold months. It will ensure that you don't lose too much heat from your head.
Keep warm with a bathrobe
Once you get out of the water, you're cold and wet, so it's important to put something on your body quickly. A bathrobe is easy to put on, while allowing you to store your items in the handy front pockets.
10 tips for winter swimming
Now we've talked about the many benefits of winter bathing and how best to get started, what do you really need to pay attention to when jumping into the cold chill? To give you the best start, here are 10 tips for winter swimming:
- Never swim alone. It probably goes without saying, but it's important to point out that you shouldn't swim alone, as your body can react violently to the cold water.
- Only go as far as your belly button.
- Only swim in authorised places.
- If you have any doubts about your health, check with your doctor.
- Walk slowly as the pier and steps can be slippery.
- Never jump into the cold water head first.
- Warm up your body before entering the water.
- Focus on your breathing and breathe deeply into your belly when entering the water to avoid temporary shortness of breath as much as possible.
- Never bathe with alcohol or narcotics in your blood.
- Wear warm clothes after the swim and drink something hot if possible.
Finally, winter swimming during pregnancy is not recommended because of the cold shock to the body. However, there is no evidence that it is dangerous, but it is still recommended that you wait until after the birth.
However, a cold shock and time in nature is good for most people, so with that, we wish you a nice dip in the deep blue!