Planning on swimming through autumn and winter for the first time? You're in great company. And now (late summer) is the perfect time to start preparing for those colder swims and acclimatising to the colder water.
Here are our top five tips for preparing to swim year-round.
Let us know how you get on...
1. Get Acclimatised
Getting acclimatised is about giving your body a chance to get used to the colder waters gradually - literally as the water cools down from double digits in summer through to single digits in winter. (Yes, water temperature in ponds, rivers and the sea in the UK can get down to as little as 1 or 2 degrees during winter). If you've already been swimming outside this summer then great news: you're already part of the way there.
From here, you just need to keep swimming and dipping regularly, allowing your body to get used to the cooler temperatures as they arrive. The body can much more easily tolerate single degree decreases in temperature week on week as winter rolls around rather than the shock of being thrown into icy cold water having only enjoyed heated pools up until that point.
2. Bring the Right Kit
The right kit for outdoor swimming is different to the items you might have in your bag for a pool swim. Forget goggles, shampoo and a locker token; for outdoor swimming it's all about warmth - before, during and after your swim.
Firstly you'll need a good quality, lined or bonded fabric swimsuit. We recommend the Signature and Essential swimsuits: both styles are made from bonded fabric which is luxuriously thicker (read: warmer). However, all D&B pieces are lined for additional warmth and support, and so will help keep you a little toastier in cooler waters. Many of our customers particularly like the Long Sleeve Swimsuit which gives additional coverage to cold arms.
If you're new to cold water swimming then a good quality wetsuit can help you to stay warm. However, do make sure the suit fits well as a gaping hole down the back can let a flood of water in and leave you feeling even colder.
After your swim it's all about the items that will help you to get dressed and warm quickly. Towelling robes are very popular (we love the camo DryRobe here at D&B) but a large jumper or oversized coat work just as well too. Otherwise, make sure to pack clothes that are really easy to pop on if you're a bit damp and your fingers are a little stiff from the cold. You want layers, loose fitting clothes, warm socks and shoes that are easy to do up.
And finally, make sure to bring a hot drink to help you warm up from the inside out and something sweet to get your blood sugar back up. That's right, your outdoor swimming kit list includes cake. You're welcome.
3. Swim with Friends
Outdoor swimming is an extreme sport and even the most seasoned cold water swimmers can get intro trouble in cold water, so it's always advisable to swim with a friend or group of pals. Remember, unlike pools, most outdoor swim spots don't have a lifeguard on duty who can help if you find yourself in difficulty.
Thankfully it's never been easier to find people to go for an outdoor swim with. Look up your local outdoor swimming community on Facebook (the Outdoor Swimming Society is a great place to start) or find your local Bluetits flock to join at their next swim. Groups are almost always free to join and we've never yet come across a group of outdoor swimmers who aren't friendly, welcoming and inclusive. Plus - it really is much more fun to share the mad experience with others.
4. Listen to Your Body
Even regular cold water swimmers can have dips where their bodies don't behave like they usually do and so listening to how your body feels in the cold water and responding is probably the most important thing you can do.
If you're feeling particularly cold or shaky then it's important to get out, get warm and see how you feel after a short period of time. Even the most experienced swimmers can be at risk of hypothermia.
5. Know the Water
Lakes, rivers, ponds, the sea: all have their own unique risks. From polluted water, to tides or difficult entry and exit points. Before you leap into a pool of water make sure you know:
a. How and where to safely get out
b. What the tides or current are doing
c. The condition of the water and whether it's safe to swim there
d. Where you are exactly (should you need to call the emergency services for help)
The UK has a very large and active outdoor swimming community. If you're heading to a swimspot that you don't know or haven't visited previously, then get in touch with your local outdoor swimming Facebook group for latest advice and guidance on water safety.
Finally, we recommend downloading the following apps onto your phone for use in emergencies:
When practiced safely, outdoor swimming is one of the most fun activities on the planet - a brilliant workout and a refreshing reset for the mind and the body. But like all extreme sports, it's important to take some time beforehand to make sure you are prepared - with the right kit, information, company and expectations - and you'll have a fantastic time.