Nothing Like A Chilly Dip
I am a big fan of a weekly chilly dip and it seems I’m not alone. But why is it that so many people are reaching out to join what were previously thought of as a bunch absolute nutters braving the freezing water in the winter temperatures in their bathers? Well it seems that yet again scientists have agreed with what the initiated already knew, that it is good for you!
When I first decided to join the world of cold water swimming I did my research first to make sure that it was safe. I didn’t suddenly decide to go for a plunge in icy waters in the depths of winter, I did it slowly by swimming all summer and autumn ready to carry on and commit to a Polar Swimming Challenge last November. I am not going to lie, there were days when I wondered why I was putting myself through this, when the air temperature was hovering around zero but then, once I had had my chilly dip, I was aglow and could feel the benefit instantly. That’s what has kept me going plus of course, swimming in some of Cornwall’s best coastal waters.
Photo credit: Ryan Loughlin on Unsplash
Photo credit: Akira Hojo on Unsplash
Fancy joining me?
Lots of Reasons to Make you Feel Good
Gets you Buzzing
Being in cold water is a shock to the system and can be painful. As the body reacts to this pain it produces endorphins (feel good chemicals in the brain) to help us cope with it and feel better about the situation. Just like when you do other exercise, this feel good buzz lasts for a while and really makes you feel better.
Improves Your Circulation
When your body is exposed to cold it reacts by forcing blood to the surface and to our extremities. Blood is pumped through our highways, our veins, arteries and capillaries and as we gradually become used to the cold we become better able to deal with it.
Increases Resilience in Times of Stress
The challenge of being plunged into the cold water puts a lot of stress on both the body and the mind but the more we do it, the more we learn to cope with it. Research studies have shown that this has a direct effect on how we deal with stress in everyday life, making us better able to cope and becoming more resilient in times of challenge.
Boosts Your Immune System
When you are immersed in cold water it increases the white blood cell count because your body has to react to the changing environment and over time your body is able to activate its defences quicker giving you a real boost to your immune system.
Increases Calorie Burn Rate
Being in cold water means that your body has to work harder to keep everything warm, using more energy/calories in the process.
You Make New Friends
Joining an outdoor swimming group is the best way to make new friends. People come together to share the experience of swimming wild, supporting each other. There is no judgement just camaraderie as everyone embraces the cold water and shares the achievement.
So How Do I Get Started?
As with any new exercise it is important to make sure that you are safe and it is advisable to check with your doctor before taking the plunge.
Take it Slow
Don’t suddenly decide in the depths of winter that you are now going to start going for a polar dip. Have a plan to start when the weather warms up and your body has a chance to acclimatise to the temperature of the water and then just keep going all year so that your body has the chance to gradually adapt, degree by degree.
Never swim alone. Always check the place you intend to swim is safe and you can get in and out of the water quickly and easily.
Wear the Right Kit
What you wear is important. It doesn’t have to be fancy but it needs to serve a purpose especially in the cold. Personally I like a swim suit and woolly bobble hat to keep my hair out of the water and to preserve as much heat as possible but others wear swimming hats, gloves, boots, wetsuit, whatever makes you feel comfortable and perhaps even more important, you must have something warm to wrap up in immediately after you get out of the water. Dry robes are the clothing of choice for many but as long as you have something that you can wrap up in, dry off and change into that is what counts.
Enter the water slowly
Do not be tempted to dive into cold water as this could cause your body real problems, having you gasp for air and potentially putting you into shock which is very dangerous. Take your time, respect the water and go in slowly, exhaling as you go.
Respect your body
Listen to your body, get to know the limits that are safe for you. As a general rule of thumb, most swimmers work on the basis of 1 minute in the water per 1 degree of temperature. But you do not have to do this. You can literally pop your toes in the water if that is what feels right for you. You are doing this for you, not anyone else. You have nothing to prove.
Get Warm Slowly
Make sure you dry off thoroughly, remove your wet clothes and wrap up in layers of warm clothes immediately after your swim. Remember to wear a hat, gloves and thick socks. Have a warm drink, or some warm food to gradually warm you from the inside. I always take a flask of tea or soup to have in the car afterwards, taking my time to recover before heading home.
Do not take a hot shower straight away after a chilly dip as this can be dangerous.
Remember, cold water swimming is not for everyone. Just because some people rave about it does not necessarily mean that it is right for you. Listen to your body and do what fees right for you.
If you do want to get started then take the time during lock down to do some research, find a club, find a venue, sort out your kit and make a plan.
And then enjoy!
Need a winter warmer for after your dip? Here are couple of my favourite recipes that will definitely help warm you up!
Spicy Bean Soup
What you need...
4tsp vegetable oil
2 medium onion, finely diced
2 red or yellow peppers, diced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tsp mild chilli powder
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp ground cumin
800g can chopped tomatoes
800g can black beans
2tsp vegetable bouillon powder
What you do...
Fry the onion and pepper in the oil over a medium heat for about 10 minutes, stirring to make sure they don’t burn and until the onions are translucent and they have softened. Stir in the garlic with all the spices, add the tomatoes and the beans with their liquid, followed by a can of water and the bouillon powder. Stir to mix, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.
This makes 4 delicious portions...enjoy!
And of course, as we said at the start, nothing beats a chilli dip...so here is my favourite recipe to share with friends and family...swimmers and non swimmers alike!
This is our favourite chilli dip from the wonderful www.greedygourmet.com
Chilli & Lime Yoghurt Dip
What you need....
400ml (14fl oz) Greek yoghurt
2 limes, juiced
5ml (1 tbsp) ground paprika
1 small fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
5ml (1 tbsp) caster sugar
What you do...
Combine all the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately although it can keep in the fridge for 3 days.