So many of us have discovered the bliss that comes with dipping our toes in the wild waters over the last year or so. Whether it’s flat open waters of lakes or the choppy waves of the sea the benefits of embracing these wild waters are pretty endless. From boosting your immune system to improved metabolism it’s worth braving the chilly waters and for those of you who haven’t tried it yet or have just begun I’ve put together my top tips for wild swimmer beginners.
1. First top tip is to enjoy it! It may seem daunting to begin with especially if you’re first dip is in the winter months but you will be smiling by the end of it!
2. Make sue you are prepared for your swim and after your swim. Wear whatever you feel comfortable in whether that’s a wetsuit or a swimming costume or t-shirt and shorts but make sure it’s suitable for the time of year. A pair of aqua shoes or wetsuit boots are essential to protect your feet. If you acclimatise yourself properly you may be able to head into the winter waters in skins (just your cossie) but this will take time to build up to and time to build up the length of time you spend in the water even in a wetsuit. Whatever the time of year make sure you have a warm set of clothes to get into after your swim. Taking a towel and a cosy outfit is essential even on the sunniest of days. Cold water shock can set in even after you are out of the water so it’s essential to warm yourself up slowly after your swim but getting dry quickly and not sitting in wet kit.
3. Be safe! Be aware of your own capabilities and don’t push your boundaries without anyone else around or in an unfamiliar place. Make sure if you’re heading out for a swim alone that someone knows where you are heading out to, you can share your live location with a friend or at least leave a note of where you are planning to swim. This includes what time you expect to be back. If you’d like to get into wild swimming for the first time or just don’t want to head out alone then check out The Outdoor Swimming Society who list 100 social swim groups across the UK.
4. Do your research. You’ll need to check that the water is safe to swim in, that you aren’t trespassing and that wild swimming is permitted. Scope out your swimming spot carefully before you jump in. Check the depth and flow of the water (avoid swimming in rivers with fast-flowing currents) and look out for any hidden rocks or submerged branches. Look for an exit point – work out how you’ll get out of the water before you get in.
5. Be aware of any environmental dangers. The water in city rivers and canals is more likely to carry harmful bacteria. Don’t swim anywhere with stagnant water or where you see a greenish bloom on the surface – this could be blue-green algae, a bacteria which can make you sick. ‘Swimmer’s itch’ (cercarial dermatitis) is rare but can be caught from contact with little snails that live on the reeds around marshy lakes and stagnant ponds. Weil’s disease – In urban areas sewers and storm drains may harbour colonies of rats whose urine may carry the bacterial infection Leptospirosis. If you are concerned about water quality cover any open wound with a waterproof plaster and keep your head (eyes, nose and throat) out of the water as much as possible.