We’re approaching that time of year when people who usually prefer to be dry and warm decide to run headlong into the sea – possibly wearing fancy dress. And many people make their New Year dip the beginning of a longer commitment.
For The Bluetits Chill Swimmers, New Year is one of the peak times for welcoming new members.
“I think it’s a ‘New Year, new me thing,’ says Sian Richardson, who founded the global movement in Pembrokeshire in 2014. “People reach the other side of Christmas and start thinking about getting fitter. Some people will join a gym – others have maybe seen people swimming in the area and decide that now is the time to do something crazy and join up at the coldest time of year!”
While Sian founded The Bluetits by accident after she took up a winter swimming challenge, she won’t pretend that swimming outdoors in winter is always easy.
“Anything under five degrees is very cold and that can be a real challenge, but people enjoy the endorphins, they enjoy the thrill, and they enjoy breaking new ground.”
Sian still swims all year round, and is taking a Bluetits team to the World Ice Swimming Championships in Estonia next year – so she’s well-placed to offer advice on how to make cold water swimming safer and more enjoyable.
1. Wear lots of clothes before and after
“Take with you lots of layers of clothing that’s very easy to get on, with no zips or buttons. You need to be able to get it on as quickly as possible with no fuss and nonsense. The clothes that I take are all far too big for me and mostly made with polyester mixes so they’re very good at wicking moisture.”
2. Take along a snack and a hot drink.
“This is good for your body because it gets your metabolism going again after the dip, and it’s also good for your soul. If you know you’ve got a warm drink and a snack waiting for you, it’s something to look forward to. It’s also good for the social side of it because afterwards you sit around chatting and you might have taken a packet of biscuits to share which helps to create that community bond.”
3. Wear good, grippy shoes
“In the winter I will always wear shoes to go dipping because I don’t want to fall over rocks or slip. They provide that extra little bit of security because I know I can get out of the water quicker if I need to. Shoes also make it safer and easier because when you have cold feet it can become hard to feel underneath your feet.”
4. Don’t overdo it
“Don’t go beating yourself up for not staying in the water very long. Normally in the winter, I’ll only stay in for two minutes – that’s all I need for me to get my fix when the water’s cold. However, I get to enjoy half an hour of chatting with the other Bluetits either side of the dip.”
5. Be safe
“Go dipping with a group for camaraderie and safety. Also, read up on the risks of cold-water shock, which can happen if you plunge into cold water. Make sure you don’t overstretch yourself and know how to protect yourself.”
- Picture credit: Ella Richardson Photography
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