23 Mar A Guide to Cold Water Dipping
A GUIDE TO COLD WATER DIPPING
If you are new or curious about cold water dipping or wild swimming, but not sure where to start, then hopefully this article will help to get you started on your wild swim journey.
Join Wild Sea Women for your first dip
If you have a WSW group in your part of the world then come and join us at one of our free sessions where you’ll not only take a dip in the sea with the support and encouragement of other women, but also be guided through a pre dip meditation to help calm your body and mind. You’ll also be given some safety tips before heading into the water.
If you’re unable to join WSW then maybe have a think about any friends or family members who might be up for joining you – if you, like me (Hayley) when I first started sea dipping, cannot find anyone to go in with you (because most likely everyone will think you’re a bit cuckoo – until they try and wonder what took them so long to give it a go 😊) then at least try to take someone with you who can stand by and watch you while you go in.
If you are fortunate to live in an area where there are local swim groups (WSW or others), then I’d recommend joining one of these groups as you will quickly learn lots about wild swimming.
Where to Swim/Dip
We currently have Wild Sea Women groups around the NE of England & SW Scotland;
The Slope in Seaham
South Shields Beach
West Kilbride Beach
What to Wear
Wear whatever you’re most comfortable in. If you’re planning on swimming for a decent amount of time, you’ll probably want to be wearing a suitable wetsuit (to begin with at least). If you’re more into experiencing the benefits of the cold exposure aspect of swimming/dipping then wear a costume/bikini/swim shorts – you might also like to check whether shoes are required, some seas/rivers/lakes are rocky and also need to be aware of Weever Fish which can give a nasty sting if you happen to stand on one, they lurk in the shallows and are nicely camouflaged in the sand. An alternative solution to wearing shoes with regards to avoiding weever fish is to shuffle your way into the sand as you move.
What to do if stung by a Jellyfish or Weever Fish
For jellyfish stings, rinse the sting with warm water, as warm as you can but avoiding getting scolded. Weever fish, same thing but check for spines left in the wound which will need removing. More serious symptoms are rare with both of these but if you are unsure visit your local walk in centre just to be sure.
Wearing a wetsuit or leggings and a long sleeved top can help reduce the chances of being stung by a jellyfish.
How Long Should I Stay in the Water?
This depends how conditioned you are to cold water – If you’re new to cold water exposure, then build up the time gradually, perhaps see how you feel after a minute or 2. You may feel like you could stay in much longer (if so then we’d still recommend you limit yourself to just a few mins max (especially in the winter) as you may be surprised how difficult it is to warm up afterwards).
If you’re wearing a wetsuit, you’ll be able to stay in the water for longer periods of time, though this depends on the thickness of your wetsuit.
The challenge doesn’t come so much from being in the water, it’s when we get out the water when we start to feel the cold and possibly shiver. This is due to what is known as the after drop and happens when the cold blood from the extremities mixes with the warm blood in the core.
Also be mindful that the cold water can quickly deplete all your energy, one minute you may feel fine, and the next your muscles just stop working. We therefore advise to never go out too far. Drink a warm sugary drink once you come out of the cold.
The important thing is to not over do it, everyone’s body responds differently to the cold so never compete with anyone else.
Also remember to keep your focus when you come out of the water, and warm yourself up slowly (no cardio after cold swimming/dipping).
What to Bring (most are just extra little luxuries and very handy especially when you first start cold water swimming).
Swimwear/wetsuit (swim gloves/boots optional)
Towel or dryrobe
A large bag (Ikea bags are ideal)
warm clothes – plenty of loose layers
A warm hat
A flask cup with a warm drink (no caffeine or alcohol as these constrict the blood flow)
Hot Water Bottle (2 ideally to place under the arm pits).
Dry/Tow Bag – these tie to your waist and are handy to keep your clothes/valuables in such as keys
- A waterproof case for your phone
When we get out of the cold water, it can take a while to warm up – you will probably feel cold to the core within a few minutes of coming out of the water
One of the best ways to warm back up is by doing non cardio exercises which work on the thigh muscles such as squats as this generates heat, warming the body back up nice and slowly.
We’re often feeling high when we get out the water, we start talking to each other, buzzing about how good we feel, or we start talking about tomorrow or next week or whatever, but we have lost the focus and may start to shiver. If we can learn to focus the mind inward, we will feel the body as it begins to warm up from inside out.
The more we practice warming up in this way, the more we’ll also be toning up the body in the process. Winner winner. 💪🏻
Of course it’s optional but it’s good practice.
Build up your cold exposure time gradually. Try ending your usual warm shower with a 20-30 sec blast of cold and build up this time weekly.
I hope you enjoy your wild swimming adventures – a word of warning, it’s ADDICTIVE!! 🌊 🧜♀️ 🧜♂️ 🌊
Here is a great vid put together by the RNLI