Cold water swimming is making a splash in the mainstream right now, with celebrities and fitness experts endorsing the many benefits it can offer. But for newcomers to this invigorating pastime, there are plenty of things to keep in mind before diving in. Understanding how best to acclimatize to the cold water will keep you safe and allow you to get maximum enjoyment from your time spent tackling the temperatures. Here are three of the best ways to acclimatize when taking up cold water swimming.
1. Take your time
After gearing yourself up to take the plunge for the first time, you might be tempted to rip the band-aid off and dive in head first. While getting the hardest part over and done with as quickly as possible may seem like the best course of action, at best it’s going to be extremely uncomfortable, and at worst you could send your body into a state of cold water shock.
Instead, take your time when entering the water. Whether there’s a ramp or steps, gradually ease yourself in so you allow each part of your body more time to gently adjust to the colder conditions.
2. Commit to regular sessions
Cold water swimming can offer so many benefits to both our physical and mental health. But to get the most out of the time spent in the water, it’s important to make it a regular part of your exercise routine. Not only will this help to maximize the benefits, but exposing your body to the cold conditions on a regular basis will help it to acclimatize and gradually soften the shock of entering the water.
If you can’t commit to sessions too regularly, there are other ways to help your body to feel more comfortable with the cold water. One useful technique is to turn the temperature down in the shower; while this won’t fully emulate the feeling of being immersed in an icy body of water, it will help you to become more familiar with the sensation and effect of cold water on your body.
3. Use the right equipment
Wetsuits are something of a controversial topic in cold water swimming circles. Lots of people would argue that wearing a wetsuit diminishes the benefits of the activity, while others may feel more comfortable with one on. The truth is, there’s no hard and fast rule; you should do whatever makes you feel most comfortable. Even if you aren’t interested in their temperature-regulating benefits, there are plenty more advantages to wearing wetsuits, such as added buoyancy, protection and speed.
When it comes to acclimatizing, you may think that wearing a wetsuit will help to reduce the shock of entering the water. However, this generally isn’t true, since the cold water will still seep through the material and come into contact with your skin. As you spend longer in the water, this layer will help to insulate your body and keep you warm – but it doesn’t defend against the initial shock. If you would rather go without a wetsuit but are struggling with the chill, consider other pieces of equipment like neoprene gloves or socks to help keep more of your body’s warmth in.
When you aren’t properly prepared, cold water swimming can be an extremely dangerous hobby. If you’re just starting out, take your time learning the ropes, and make sure you know your limits. That way, you’ll be able to enjoy the many benefits of cold water swimming without putting your safety at risk.
Geoff Aldis is a Freelance Content Producer and Researcher.