New Outdoor Swimmers in WinterI am so glad you have found Swim Outdoors and want to get involved with Wild or Open Water Swimming in my local area.
Photos of cold water dips, Xmas and New Year swims and posts of swimmers breaking the ice are really inspiring. The swimmers in the photos are likely to be acclimatised regular experienced swimmers, many starting in summer and continuing as it gets colder.
I will be starting to offer Confidence Pods from April 2024 in a variety of locations on the Nidd, Ure and Wharfe. Spaces will be available to book from my booking page here: www.swimoutdoors.as.me
Starting in winter can be tricky. It can look pretty easy on a bright day, but in the wind and rain you may think twice.
Many qualified Open Water Coaches who work in Rivers don't book winter swimming workshops for a number of reasons:
- New swimmers are not acclimatised to the cold water. It takes experience to
gauge when you need to get out, and also when you actually not prepared or able to get in.
- New swimmers are not experienced in how to get out, dry and dressed quickly. It takes some practice to get the right kit together and its vital that you can do this quickly.
- The time you will spend in the water will be generally less that 5 minutes. I can talk! But swimmers may expect more of a swim and less talk on their first session.
- Unfortunately the weather does not always play ball.
All over the many Facebook Swimming groups you will find lots of informal advice or people offering to swim with you. I would be concerned if someone claims to have the experience to take a new swimmer into the water in winter - If they understood the risks, why would they offer to take a stranger into the water.
I also see a number of individuals or organisations offering cold water dipping as part of a breathwork, retreat or sauna session - these can be unqualified and uninsured with you being required to "swim at your own risk". Again I would express caution. This is a fantastic article by the Outdoor Swimmer Magazine about this topic. Just because someone has confidence and looks the part, does not mean that they can keep you safe
If your wanting to give it an go I urge you to wait until the water is a little warmer. As a first time swimmer there are a number of things you can do to prepare:
- Cold water showers. There is increasing evidence that cold showers are great for you. Have a go to see how you react to the cold.
- Read info about open water swimming. I would start here: www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/category/survive
- Visit local swim spots and get to know the river after rainfall, snow melt or after a few dry days. This information is vital for you to understand the river you are swimming in and how it reacts to rainfall. If your lucky you will bump into some swimmers who will be mega friendly.
- Make sure you are fit and healthy. You may want to ask your doctor if they would recommend open water swimming for your age, condition or ability. They may not have clear advice, but will probably be able to tell you if its not a good idea.- Think about the kit you have and what you may need. Technically you only need a swimsuit and some water shoes to swim, but you will need a lot more kit for warmth, to carry your stuff and to make sure you can change quickly.