You may think that swimming in cold water is one of the last things you'd dream of doing, but there's significant health benefits attached to it. IPRS Health clinician Hazel Rudder writes about her cold water swimming experience and why you should take the plunge.
On a cold December night, I took off my coat and stood in my swimming costume on the slipway of a secluded harbour. There was a full moon, but it was blocked by clouds whirling past in the stormy sky. The masts of boats rattled in the wind as the freezing waters lapped around their hulls. No turning back …this was it… a December moonlight cold water swim – the Polar Bear Swim.
This would be seen by most as the start of a very dark story – and to me a few months before, it would have seemed like madness. In truth, the harbour was lit by fairy lights, lifeguards shuddered in full dry suits on their paddleboards on the perimeters of the swim course, and glow sticks were handed to swimmers as they entered the dark waters, which were handed back and counted as we exited the water. There was a band playing, and warm soup was handed to swimmers on completion of the swim, along with a Polar Bear badge. The swim was in aid of a local cancer charity and the support, comradery and… yes – I’ll say it… “fun” was something unprecedented!
Cold water swimming is gaining in popularity and momentum as it sweeps the UK as a pastime, accessible by pretty much everyone over the age 16. Studies have been completed looking into the health benefits, and TV shows such as Countryfile are dedicating their airtime extolling the virtues of swimming outside, all year round. As a hardened surfer, I had never imagined that going into the sea a few times a week, with a bunch of people that I would never have crossed paths with – without a wetsuit – would be such fun, and so addictive. I have grown to love this crazy pastime and cannot imagine life without it now.