Have you recently discovered the joys of wild swimming? Well, you’re not alone.
The water-based hobby has been experiencing something of a boom during the pandemic, as people seek out activities they can enjoy while coronavirus restrictions are in place.
For instance, in Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, nearly 650 people have joined a Facebook group dedicated to swimming in the coastal town, just two months after it was set up.
Taking a dip outdoors in winter may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but converts agree it’s a wonderful way to lift your spirits and get some exercise.
Here are some things every wild swimming enthusiast will understand…
1. You used to think wild swimmers were mad
Previously, you couldn’t understand why anyone in their right mind would strip down to their swimmers and plunge into a river, lake or sea, unless it was the height of summer. Now, you can’t wait to feel the icy water on your skin.
2. You have to psych yourself up
As much as you look forward to your swims, you do experience a bit of last-minute hesitation before you wade into the water. But a quick pep talk is all it takes, then you’re ready to go.
3. It feels horrible at first
The frigid water hits you like a slap in the face and sometimes it’s actually painful for your extremities as you submerge yourself. Why, you wonder at first, were you looking forward to this so much?
4. Deep breaths help
You know it’s normal for your heart rate to skyrocket as your body acclimatises to the drop in temperature. That’s why you ease yourself into the water and take some deep breaths, while also letting out the occasional yelp.
5. The endorphins are amazing
After the initial shock, a pleasant sort of numbness washes over you as you begin to swim properly. It’s a glorious feeling, and it doesn’t stop there.
While exiting the water brings with it another blast of cold, when you get dried off and warmed up, the endorphins keep flowing for hours afterwards.
6. Planning is important
As a beginner you thought that swimmers, a towel and a big coat were all you needed. These days you’ve got a wild swimming kit that includes a fleece-lined hoodie, a thermos of hot chocolate, gloves and extra socks, plus a bobble hat that you keep on in the water.
7. You feel connected to nature
Whether you’re lucky enough to live by the sea, can access a river with a calm current, or you swim in a park-based pond, you can’t help but feel connected to nature when you’re immersed in the great outdoors.
Plus, wild swimming has helped you explore your local area as you seek out new places to take a dip.
8. You’ve got post-swim rituals
Maybe it’s a long hot soak in the bath followed by tea and toast. Maybe it’s a quick shower then a bacon sandwich. Maybe it’s a cheeky Kit-Kat in the car on the way home. Everyone’s got their favourite post-swim ritual for warming up and refuelling.
9. It’s totally addictive
You can’t believe you used to scoff at people who swam all year round, and that it took you this long to discover the delights of a bracing dip, whatever the weather. These days, you won’t stop going on about your new hobby. You’re hooked and there’s no going back.