1. If you haven’t already - start now!
The key to keeping yourself going through the winter is to get into a routine of going regularly now while the water is still ‘warm’ or ‘warmer’. Your first swim needn’t be a big deal, find a friend or partner who’s willing to support and just pop down to the beach for a quick dip. You don’t need to stay in long, it’s not about proving anything to yourself or anyone around you, this is about getting yourself into a routine and helping you feel comfortable and confident in and around the water.
2. Find your community or a few regular swim buddies.
Meeting up with others for a swim is not only going to help with the pressure of forcing yourself out of bed on those cold, frosty mornings, but the community & shared experience (as well as the chats shivering over coffee & cake afterwards) create an incredible environment to make new friends and make the most of the experience. Start now by looking up your local swim group or asking around for friends who might be keen to join you.
3. Stay safe and get to know your local spots
Never swim alone and only ever swim where it is safe and you can enter and exit the water easily. Ask advice from the local swimmers and get to know the currents/tides/conditions at your local spot. If you’re not a confident swimmer then stay within your depth and take a tow float for support and visibility - you may want to consider joining in with an intro to open water swimming class with a qualified open water swimming coach to give you some confidence and support on your first few outings.
It’s not a competition and bobbing about in the shallows or just dropping your shoulders under and running out are also perfectly acceptable. The joys of cold water swimming are about you and your connection to your own body and the water around you. Everyone’s abilities are different and never feel pressure to stay in longer or go further than you feel comfortable.
4. Don’t stay in too long
This is the biggest mistake people make when it comes to cold water swimming, and particularly over the next few months as the temperature drops and you are just getting used to the colder temperatures. Being a fit individual and a strong swimmer does not change the fact that the time your body can comfortably stay in the water may be less than others around you. Enter the water slowly and allow your body time to acclimatise. Start with a short dip. If you are shivering in the water then you are already too cold and need to get out. Some us only stay in the water for a few minutes in winter, it’s still always worth it.
5. Start practicing your speedy ‘swimsuit off’ and ‘warm clothing on’ routine at the end of a swim. You’ll need it soon…
We’ll follow with some more tips on breathing and kit in part two…
The outdoor swimming society website is a great source for further tips, advice and finding local communities of swimmers/dippers .
If you’re looking for a friendly community of swimmers near you try the bluetits, they have lots of groups across the country and are really welcoming to all.
For open water swimming coaches local to us in plymouth, devon - jason at @aceswimming is your man.
Further afield check out @straightlineswimming for qualified open water swimming coaches near you.