Cold Water Swimming Hack

Discovered a few weeks ago when we had a river swim….

I took an isothermal bottle  full of boiling water, my daughters mini hot water bottle and two haramakis – one cotton for next to the skin and an ultra-warm angora core-warmer. Once out of the water and dressed (and while my fingers still worked) I filled the hot water bottle with the boiling water and popped the hot water bottle in my roo pouch of haramakis. Combined with my robe I built up a nice warm core radiating heat.  Added tea and amazing marmalade cakes and I was a very happy post-swim seabird! Been doing it ever since to beat the after-drop….

Haramakis to the ready – we are cold-water swimming

Earlier this summer I was attending Camp Abyss with some of my favourite people in the world, close family and oldest of friends. Hot and exposed in the field for 3 days we needed to cool off and get wet. I turned to my new favourite discovery I have banged on about before the Wild Swim Map and the Wild Guide and found Wallers Haven was our nearest swim spot to the field.

It is a little difficult to match the spot on the road to the description given. However, we parked on the side of the (very fast) road and waited for a gap in the traffic and headed over to the bridge to investigate. We took the most difficult route in which turned into a battle with nettles and one of our party almost falling down the side into the river. Don’t do that as there is a ‘proper’ access by path a bit further up the road each way!

We walked on until we round the concrete jetty described in the map. It is a beautiful spot. Peaceful and surrounded by countryside. Weeping Willow trees dangling down over the silky water surface of the river. Minerally (?) tasting water refreshingly cold in the heat of the day. My first river swim! Having been stung by nettles almost falling in the river and spotting a ‘snake’ on the surface of the water one of our party stated that they were just there to watch. However….it was inviting enough to get all of us in having fun. This is despite our varying levels of confidence and anxiety about being out our depths etc. Some stuck to the edges for a quick float, others dived and jumped in and generally messed about. A lovely spot. Much fun. We all returned to the festival invigorated, energised and happier. I highly recommend. Take your haramaki – you will need it whatever the weather after the cold water. Keep that core warm and the rest will follow 🙂

Also published by the Seabirds Blog

Tips for warming up after sea swimming

“After drop” is common after swimming in cold water; you get out and feel fine, and then you start to get colder, sometimes growing faint, shivering violently and feeling unwell.” (Outdoor Swimming Society) 

Learning to head off the after drop is a key part of continuing to swim in cold water all year round. While in the cold water you can be lured into a false sense of security (numbness!) and stay in what turns out to be too long. With practice you learn your limitations (trial and error!)  just how cold you are going to be about 10 minutes after getting out. You then learn to moderate your swim times and get out before you feel you have to. Then the key is warming up – slowly. If you have a hot shower for example the blood can run from your core (where it is working hard to maintain your core temperature and keep you alive!) to your skin and actually make your temperature drop along with your blood pressure – potentially making you feel faint and ‘stinging’ your skin.

As you start to warm up blood starts to recirculate in your extremities and peripheral blood vessels, cooling as it travels. You can lose up to 4.5°C from your core temperature. This is where you haramaki corewarmer comes in really really handy.

swimmers in haramaki

Tips to warm up after you get out of cold water: 

  • Get dressed as soon as you can. Preferably starting with the top half of your body.  Use a haramaki. Use a robe to get dressed quicker and keep out of the wind.
  • Put on a hat and gloves and have some tea from a flask you brought with you!
  • Put on lots of layers. Haramaki, gloves, hat, thermals.
  • Sip a warm drink: this helps warm the body gently from the inside.
  • Eat something: sugar will help raise body temperature so have some cake!
  • Sit in a warm environment: chance for more tea and more cake with your fellow swimmers….
  • Walk around to generate body heat. It can take some time to warm properly. Running up and down the beach while waiting for your friends-who-faff can help.

For more information about acclimatising to cold water, the benefits and the risks go to the Outdoor Swimming Society 

If you have any good tips please add in the comments 🙂