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Thread: Cold water swimming - do you take part?

  1. #1
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    Cold water swimming - do you take part?

    Has anyone else been bitten by the cold water swimming bug? This August I went for my first swim in British coastal waters for around 50 years. It was on the Suffolk coast with a group of all year round swimmers. I think it was a relatively balmy 18c. They are a lovely group of people and at the time I had the chance to join them regularly.

    It came as a real surprise to me that as the year has progressed, the colder it got, the more I enjoyed it. Getting in is a challenge but the tingling from cold water is addictive. Walking back from the beach feeling chilled to the core is a strangely uplifting feeling.

    After getting too cold on one occasion, I have to time myself in the water in order to keep safe - stay in too long and you can start to feel warm. The coldest water I swam in was 6c just before Christmas and returns to the coast became illegal. The water there now is 1.5c and a few of my fellow swimmers are still going in every day that the waves permit - though no longer as a (socially distanced) group. I miss it like mad.

    Although there are risks, the sense of wellbeing and potential other health benefits are tremendous. Anyone else similarly inclined?

  2. #2
    Master MakeColdplayHistory's Avatar
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    I don't - I'd rather eat my own knees - but Mrs MCH has been doing it for a few years now. Not in the sea though as we live too far away. It's local lakes, pools etc and some local rivers with 'plunge pools'. She works on the basis of a minute per deg Celsius at this time of year. When it gets warmer again and she can put more time and distance in she's training for Coniston and/or Derwent swims.
    Last edited by MakeColdplayHistory; 14th February 2021 at 10:37.

  3. #3
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    I swim all year round although the Med at it's coldest, right now, generally only gets down to 12 to 14 C...agree with the OP it is definitely more exhilirating the cooler the water and you feel great afterwards. I often combine a swim with a run and another benefit is I find the cool water is great for the leg muscles, no aches the following day.

  4. #4
    I would love to do this as itís in line with my trail running.

    Unfortunately I canít swim! I took lessons about two years ago as I wanted to do an Ironman event. But after 6 months resigned myself to the fact that swimming and me donít mix

    At least Iíve got running and the bike to fall back on.

    My wife and my daughter are keen on doing it. We donít have the sea but there are quite a few lakes and rivers where we are.


    Cheers, Shaun

  5. #5
    I really couldnít do it, but have a vote of friends who go out in a group of mad swimmers, even wearing sting suits to swim in at times because of the large number of jelly fish! Itís definitely not for me.
    It's just a matter of time...

  6. #6
    Grand Master number2's Avatar
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    Her indoors goes here in the summer, https://www.wildswimming.co.uk/map/d...-river-thames/
    I prefer the sea.
    "Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it's enemy action."

  7. #7
    Iíve been doing it for a couple of years but I donít carry on in winter ,I stop at about 13 degrees water temperature.
    Usually end of March to October


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    I open water swim at Merchant Taylors and Denham, but normally only April to October. Some of our club are still going to Jubilee on the Thames for swims.

  9. #9
    Never done it personally but I did watch this on BBC 1 before which was really interesting and made me want to try it.

    https://www.theguardian.com/film/201...imming-culture

    I think there is a lot of research linking cold open water swimming as a cure for all sorts, even depression. Would be worth trying at some point.

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    Quote Originally Posted by wileeeeeey View Post
    Never done it personally but I did watch this on BBC 1 before which was really interesting and made me want to try it.

    https://www.theguardian.com/film/201...imming-culture

    I think there is a lot of research linking cold open water swimming as a cure for all sorts, even depression. Would be worth trying at some point.
    Quite a few of the posts on the Facebook sites for the Open Swimming Society and Slow Swimming refer to the positive it has on their mental health. They often say how it helps chronic pain and bereavement.

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    Quote Originally Posted by MakeColdplayHistory View Post
    I don't - I'd rather eat my own knees - but Mrs MCH has been doing it for a few years now. Not in the sea though as we live too far away. It's local lakes, pools etc and some local rivers with 'plunge pools'. She works on the basis of a minute per deg Celsius at this time of year. When it gets warmer again and she can put more time and distance in she's training for Coniston and/or Derwent swims.
    Wow - those will be seriously demanding swims. Time to chew down on your knees and keep her company ;)


    Edit: You should watch - or maybe you shouldn't - the video mondie links to in post 18. You never know where a swim in the Lakes is going to lead....
    Last edited by JonRA; 14th February 2021 at 18:33.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by number2 View Post
    Her indoors goes here in the summer, https://www.wildswimming.co.uk/map/d...-river-thames/
    I prefer the sea.
    I prefer the sea to rivers and lakes - I find the daily variation in the waves adds interest

  13. #13
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    Yes, and I even swam yesterday. Itís exhilarating!

    And every cold-water swimmer will say that it helps significantly with mental health. I can easily believe that cold water swimming alleviates depression, and gather thereís clinical evidence to this effect.

    Iíve gradually built up my acclimatisation to be okay with yesterdayís water temperature (3-4 C). It may be hard to believe but I enjoyed it.

    Though Iíve found the air temperature matters for the getting changed afterwards (yesterday was cold!).

    Incidentally, cold-water swimming is the one activity where a dive watch is critical for me. Iíve learnt itís vital to keep an eye on my time in cold water: it helps me get out in time before hypothermia. I prefer a dive watch because Garmins encourage people to hit their target distance (good in summer, dangerous in winter).

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    My initial plan was to keep to the warmer months - and due to circumstances, I don't know whether I would have ended up swimming all year round - but the feeling of wellbeing meant I kept going, adjusting swim time to the temperature.

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    What is the plan if you get a bad cramp ? Hope it goes away and tell people of your heroic bravery in the face of danger.

    I have lived by the coast for 40 years and people drown here regularly doing stupid stuff.

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    Master IAmATeaf's Avatar
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    Not for me Iím afraid, not that Iíve tried it but it takes me well over half an hour to inch my way into the sea or pool when on holiday where the temperatures are 33 plus. I can see me wing there for 3 hours plus and only getting in as far as my ankles

  17. #17
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    There are a bunch of safety essentials for open water swimming in summer, let alone in winter. And Iíd strongly recommend not starting open water swimming in February!

    The RNLI has basic-but-vital advice about open water swimming:
    https://rnli.org/safety/choose-your-...water-swimming

    And Outdoor Swimmer magazine has several articles about how to tackle swimming in cold water.
    https://outdoorswimmer.com/blogs/6-t...water-swimming

  18. #18
    Master mondie's Avatar
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    Not sure I would be stout enough but we recently watched a great doco on the BBC recently about a Welsh lady who trained up and swam one mile in the Antarctic! It's still on iPlayer.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000qnb4

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dougal View Post
    There are a bunch of safety essentials for open water swimming in summer, let alone in winter. And Iíd strongly recommend not starting open water swimming in February!

    The RNLI has basic-but-vital advice about open water swimming:
    https://rnli.org/safety/choose-your-...water-swimming

    And Outdoor Swimmer magazine has several articles about how to tackle swimming in cold water.
    https://outdoorswimmer.com/blogs/6-t...water-swimming
    Thanks for posting these links - I did a lot of reading about it in the autumn. And definitely agree that this is not the time of year to start. You need to acclimatise gradually.

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    Quote Originally Posted by mondie View Post
    Not sure I would be stout enough but we recently watched a great doco on the BBC recently about a Welsh lady who trained up and swam one mile in the Antarctic! It's still on iPlayer.

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/m000qnb4
    Thanks - I'll give it a watch - though I think I can confidently say I am not stout enough for that!


    Edit: what a great film and a wonderful lady. And I can restate that I am definitely not stout enough to do what she does.
    Last edited by JonRA; 14th February 2021 at 18:35.

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    Master andyjay's Avatar
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    Iím not a great one for cold water swimming, but where I live there is a massive following. Regularly, as in every day we get people swimming at high tide, and our tidal pool (http://clevedonmarinelake.co.uk/) is used all year round by the mad folk who partake in cold water swimming. The lake is normally a few degrees cold than the sea in winter, and a couple warmer than the sea in summer.

    One of my friends, fellow triathlete and a videographer is doing a series of videos about the mad people who swim in the lake under the title of ĎPolar Bearsí. Andy Wolf, one of the swimmers is raising money for the Bristol Childrenís hospital and is training to swim Loch Ness, he regular immerses himself in a chest freezer of 2 degree water to acclimatise!






    Iím not sure I understand the draw to cold water swimming, even though I love swimming, but the videos hopefully help to explain...
    Last edited by andyjay; 14th February 2021 at 17:32.

  22. #22
    Possibly a silly question, but a genuine one as I would be keen in trying this out - for those swimming at this time of year in 3-4 degrees, is it a wetsuit job, or does that defeat the purpose? Are we talking budgie smugglers here?

    (Last time I tried something of this sort was off the Mull of Kintyre one early February, trunks only.)

  23. #23
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    Don't normally do it, but went into the Cornish sea on Boxing Day. It's fine as long as you don't stay in too long, and to be honest, it was colder getting out and standing on the beach.
    No wetsuit here, just swimming trunks, as we weren't in long enough to benefit from a wetsuit.

    Pete

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by JGJG View Post
    Possibly a silly question, but a genuine one as I would be keen in trying this out - for those swimming at this time of year in 3-4 degrees, is it a wetsuit job, or does that defeat the purpose?
    Iím in a wetsuit but there are a hardy few in Ďskinsí.

    Clothing choice is incredibly personal, depending on your body fat (a few extra pounds keep you warm), how well you acclimatise, and so on.

    Cold water swimming isnít a sport you can dive into If youíre not acclimatised, Ďcold water shockí can be fatal, and severe hypothermia can be lethal too. Consequently, everyone has swam from the summer through the autumn. By the time it gets to winter, youíll already know what youíre comfortable wearing.

    And thereís a wide range of options: Ďskinsí (if youíre already highly experienced in cold water), a summer wetsuit or a winter wetsuit. Plus a choice of regular vs. thermal swim cap, neoprene boots and gloves.

    Oh, and donít forget your dive watch
    Last edited by Dougal; 14th February 2021 at 16:47.

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    I've got a wheelie bin in the back garden full of water I try to get in for 5 mins everyday. I've been doing this for over a year now and really feeling the benefits. This past week I've been cracking the ice off which is even more satisfying

    Sent from my CLT-L09 using Tapatalk

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    Master andyjay's Avatar
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    Couldnít post more than 3 videos, so here are the last two...





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    Ahhh Guys. Come on. What next ? Asking Your next door neighbour to birch You while You roll in a snow drift? You need Your bumps checking.Summer swimming yeah now no lol

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    Quote Originally Posted by diver527 View Post
    I've got a wheelie bin in the back garden full of water I try to get in for 5 mins everyday. I've been doing this for over a year now and really feeling the benefits. This past week I've been cracking the ice off which is even more satisfying

    Sent from my CLT-L09 using Tapatalk

    I wondered whether anyone here was crazy enough to do this.... I don't think I could!

  29. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by JGJG View Post
    Possibly a silly question, but a genuine one as I would be keen in trying this out - for those swimming at this time of year in 3-4 degrees, is it a wetsuit job, or does that defeat the purpose? Are we talking budgie smugglers here?

    (Last time I tried something of this sort was off the Mull of Kintyre one early February, trunks only.)
    Most of our group swim in ordinary trunks/costumes plus wetsuit boots and gloves once it started getting cold. One chap who started in October wears a short wetsuit but plans to ditch it when the water warms up. But there is no competitiveness on what someone wears or how long they stay in.
    Last edited by JonRA; 14th February 2021 at 18:36.

  30. #30
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    I swim year round here in the west of Ireland. Have been doing it for years and I absolutely love it. They sea is very cold right now, probably it coldest time of the year. You do question yourself when the steps and rails are iced as you walk down them into the sea, but the rush of endorphins is brilliant when youíve finished the swim. Iíd recommend it to anyone, but as someone else has said, February probably isnít the best time of year to start!

  31. #31
    Quote Originally Posted by Dougal View Post
    Iím in a wetsuit but there are a hardy few in Ďskinsí.

    Clothing choice is incredibly personal, depending on your body fat (a few extra pounds keep you warm), how well you acclimatise, and so on.

    Cold water swimming isnít a sport you can dive into If youíre not acclimatised, Ďcold water shockí can be fatal, and severe hypothermia can be lethal too. Consequently, everyone has swam from the summer through the autumn. By the time it gets to winter, youíll already know what youíre comfortable wearing.

    And thereís a wide range of options: Ďskinsí (if youíre already highly experienced in cold water), a summer wetsuit or a winter wetsuit. Plus a choice of regular vs. thermal swim cap, neoprene boots and gloves.

    Oh, and donít forget your dive watch
    Quote Originally Posted by JonRA View Post
    Most of our group swim in ordinary trunks/costumes plus wetsuit boots and gloves once it started getting cold. One chap who started in October wears a short wetsuit but plans to ditch it when the water warms up. But there is no competitiveness on what someone wears or how long they stay in.
    Thanks for the responses both, genuinely helpful.

  32. #32
    Master Chinnock's Avatar
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    Freezing cold showers of late. Not the same but sadistically similar and invigorating, with alledged health benefits and boost to immunity.

  33. #33
    They say those that donít do it canít understand it, and those that do canít explain it.

    This year weíve swum here in Poole every 4 to 7 days since September. Last swim was the 8th of Feb, it's been ridiculous weather in the last week. Started with wetsuit boots and gloves mid November, and by mid January you are rewarded with conditioning that allows everything to keep working, fingers, toes, etc, even straight after swimming.

    We donít put out heads in. The head isnít protected in the same way hands and feet are and you can quickly lose a tremendous amount of heat through it.

    We swim together, take the temperature and time our swims with a Garmin. One minute per degree was fine as a maximum at first, now we can stretch to a minute and a half.

    Itís important to get the top half dry and reinsulated quickly, including a big hat.

  34. #34
    Grand Master AlphaOmega's Avatar
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    OK, I'm going to try it.

    I know a little about cryo therapy as there are places for it in the City, and I'm aware of heat shock proteins from the sauna. There must be a benefit to cold water swimming.

    On the subject of acclimatisation, I have been running in the cold weather in shorts which seems to get easier after a few weeks. How have you all acclimatised to the cold water - over days or weeks or months?

    Interested to hear that it's dangerous once the cold water starts to feel warm. I know that feeling and it can be enjoyable. I had the reverse once in the desert where I started to feel cold. That was a warning sign.

  35. #35
    We went a walk around the local nature reserve the other day for a bit of bird spotting. While walking around 2 men started jumping up and down then proceeded to undress down to their pastel blue Y fronts and got in the water. They stayed in about a minute then got out. Wasn't sure what it was all about whether they were doing this cold water thing or just having a wash. Either way it looked strange.
    We looked in our RSPB book but couldn't identify them.

  36. #36
    Quote Originally Posted by sprite1275 View Post
    We went a walk around the local nature reserve the other day for a bit of bird spotting. While walking around 2 men started jumping up and down then proceeded to undress down to their pastel blue Y fronts and got in the water. They stayed in about a minute then got out. Wasn't sure what it was all about whether they were doing this cold water thing or just having a wash. Either way it looked strange.
    We looked in our RSPB book but couldn't identify them.
    Budgies

  37. #37
    Quote Originally Posted by AlphaOmega View Post
    OK, I'm going to try it.

    I know a little about cryo therapy as there are places for it in the City, and I'm aware of heat shock proteins from the sauna. There must be a benefit to cold water swimming.

    On the subject of acclimatisation, I have been running in the cold weather in shorts which seems to get easier after a few weeks. How have you all acclimatised to the cold water - over days or weeks or months?

    Interested to hear that it's dangerous once the cold water starts to feel warm. I know that feeling and it can be enjoyable. I had the reverse once in the desert where I started to feel cold. That was a warning sign.
    Months. Definitely months. About mid January we both started to feel much more comfortable, rather than a bit of a challenge.

    Youíre right, when the water starts feeling warm and it seems like a good idea to ďjust swim out to that buoyĒ then you know itís time to get out. This is why we religiously swim together and listen to each other.

    Weíve found taking a hot drink in a flask for afterwards is particularly pleasant and welcome.

  38. #38
    Grand Master snowman's Avatar
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    I often swim in UK waters, but I'm not sure in a drysuit counts as it being cold water :)

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  39. #39
    Grand Master Saint-Just's Avatar
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    There was a report recently that it was beneficial against Alzheimer's.
    The guy swimming was definitely putting his head under water while swimming in a lido.

    I used to swim in the sea almost daily, year round, when I was a lad. But then we lived in the French Caribbean islands...
    'Against stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain' - Schiller.

  40. #40
    Grand Master AlphaOmega's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sprite1275 View Post
    We looked in our RSPB book but couldn't identify them.
    *tries to resist the obvious joke*

    Was it a pair of...

    *manages to resist the obvious joke*

    Quote Originally Posted by catch21 View Post

    Youíre right, when the water starts feeling warm and it seems like a good idea to ďjust swim out to that buoyĒ then you know itís time to get out.
    Understood.

    Quote Originally Posted by Saint-Just View Post
    There was a report recently that it was beneficial against Alzheimer's.
    Really? Thanks SJ I will do a bit of digging. I know a few people who would be interested in any benefits of that nature.

  41. #41
    Grand Master Saint-Just's Avatar
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    'Against stupidity, the gods themselves struggle in vain' - Schiller.

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    Quote Originally Posted by andyjay View Post
    Couldnít post more than 3 videos, so here are the last two...




    THanks for these videos, Andy. The pool looks a fantastic resource - I'm very envious. Have made a donation to Andrew Wolf's appeal.

  43. #43

  44. #44
    Quote Originally Posted by AlphaOmega View Post
    *tries to resist the obvious joke*

    Was it a pair of...

    *manages to resist the obvious joke*


    ooh yes, great ones maybe!

  45. #45
    Grand Master AlphaOmega's Avatar
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    Bearded?

  46. #46
    Master andyjay's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by JonRA View Post
    THanks for these videos, Andy. The pool looks a fantastic resource - I'm very envious. Have made a donation to Andrew Wolf's appeal.
    Thanks very much. Heís a super nice bloke and swam the English Channel to raise money, once as part of a relay team and once as an individual. Heís also a ice world champion about 4 times, and general over achiever! Heís currently swimming and doing several lengths of Marine lake in 1 or 2 degree water. Clearly acclimatised and clearly mad!

  47. #47
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    Quote Originally Posted by Chinnock View Post
    Freezing cold showers of late. Not the same but sadistically similar and invigorating, with alledged health benefits and boost to immunity.
    Cold showers are hugely beneficial to the mind and body, itís part of the Wim Hof method, while I have tried the other aspects of his method the cold showers give me the best uplift and buzz.

    I tend to have a warm just above tepid shower for the wash to acclimatise, then wind it round to cold, to start if you can do 20-30 secs and build towards 2 mins youíll definitely feel the difference.

    Itís mainly about mind control, your brain is screaming WTF are you doing considering getting under a icy cold shower and it is a shock, but after a week or so you start to want it, bit like a challenge you look forward too.

    It definitely helps with stress, depression and anxiety so if you have any of the above give it a go, although take it easy if you have any health conditions..

  48. #48
    Grand Master AlphaOmega's Avatar
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    Before I Google the health risks of cold water, have any of you had a chat with a club, a specialist or GP about the risks?

    The Internet tends to be quite cautious and I can imagine after reading a page or two it might be off-putting.

  49. #49
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    Quote Originally Posted by AlphaOmega View Post
    Before I Google the health risks of cold water, have any of you had a chat with a club, a specialist or GP about the risks?

    The Internet tends to be quite cautious and I can imagine after reading a page or two it might be off-putting.
    I didn't talk to a specialist - but I started amongst a group of people who have been doing this for years. The person who started the group has been going all year round for well over 20 years - he now in his eighties - and several others have been going most of that time (some of the group prefer May to October participation). Between them, they have a lot of experience and have also read a great deal about the dangers. Two touchstones are respecting the sea (resisting the temptation to go in when conditions look unsafe) and respecting the cold (not getting too cold and warming up carefully). I'm tend to be rather risk averse, so have taken to it slowly, acclimatising through regular (several times a week) swims since the summer. I am not sure what to expect when I can eventually return, but I will certainly be erring on the side of caution - getting in slowly and getting out quickly!

    As mentioned previously, there is a rule of thumb guide about limiting yourself to 1 min per degree. I know people who stay in longer - eg 2 mins per degree - and I feel comfortable - ie safe - at about 1.5 mins per degree. But this sense of what suits you can only come with experience.

    As far as resources go:

    Alice Roberts did a BBC documentary on 'wild swimming' (what the older ones amongst us will know as 'swimming') in which her responses are monitored as she gets into water at 15.5 degrees - still cold enough to shock the system. You can watch that here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_TlhpGZ7OuU around 18 mins into the video.

    The RNLI (mentioned previously) have some useful resources - this article https://rnli.org/magazine/magazine-f...-from-the-blue gives a good overview of cold shock and the potential consequences. The link to the CNN video shows Shirley Robertson being immersed in water at 12 degrees.

    If you use Facebook, try subscribing to the Open Water Swimming and the Slow Swimming groups, as well as lots of pictures of people enjoying their pastime, there are often discussions about safety and good practice which can be pretty informative.

  50. #50
    Master Chinnock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by murkeywaters View Post
    Cold showers are hugely beneficial to the mind and body, itís part of the Wim Hof method, while I have tried the other aspects of his method the cold showers give me the best uplift and buzz.

    I tend to have a warm just above tepid shower for the wash to acclimatise, then wind it round to cold, to start if you can do 20-30 secs and build towards 2 mins youíll definitely feel the difference.

    Itís mainly about mind control, your brain is screaming WTF are you doing considering getting under a icy cold shower and it is a shock, but after a week or so you start to want it, bit like a challenge you look forward too.

    It definitely helps with stress, depression and anxiety so if you have any of the above give it a go, although take it easy if you have any health conditions..
    Controlling the bodyís panic response and breathing is sadistically rewarding I find.

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