Outdoor swimming is on the rise
The popularity of outdoor swimming seems to be on the rise. When I started in 2019, it followed on from playing water polo in Lyme Regis, where I was a member of a team that was taking part to have a bit of fun.
Originally, the plan was to play other similar teams, while the more serious entrants competed for the tournament trophy. As it turned out, no other teams similar to ours ended up taking part, so we recruited a few extra members and enjoyed the occasion with a couple of matches.
Ever since then, I have been enjoying regular sea swims, no matter what time of year it is. When started, there weren't many people doing it where I was but the numbers have definitely gone up since then - I recently bought a new neoprene hat and found there weren't many to choose from, which I guess was down to the popularity of outdoor swimming.
Avoiding the crowds
Going first thing, partly to avoid the crowds and partly to see the sunrise, it has been quite an experience. But it is not one to take on lightly – the sea is cold, regardless of the time of year, I have just become more accustomed to its temperatures.
I opt not to wear a wetsuit, so wearing my swimming costume, I do need to take care to limit my time in the water, especially in the winter months.
As an extra precaution, I wear neoprene gloves, swimming shoes and sometimes a neoprene hat – just to fend off the worst effects of the cold water.
For safety, I only ever do it providing there is at least one other person joining me in the water and at the end, it leaves me feeling invigorated but one of the keys to this is ensuring a good recovery from being in the cold water, so I have sought advice about outdoor swimming.
The Outdoor Swimming Society has some great tips and it also describes what happens while taking a dip in cold water and the effects afterwards.
The phenomenon of ‘afterdrop’ is described as the situation where you feel fine when you first come out but as your body adjusts to the situation, so you may start to shiver as you get colder, feel faint and feel unwell. This is follows on from the body shutting down circulation to the skin while in the cold water, to keep warm blood at the core, and allows the outdoor swimmer to stay in the water longer.
Once back on dry land, the body reverses the process as it starts to warm up again and the blood returns to the extremities and gets cooler as it travels, which can lead to shivering, hypothermia or feeling faint or unwell.
Outdoor swimming - advice for after your swim
The key is to get warm again but you have to do it in the right way – which is slowly and gradually. Going straight into a warm shower or bath will draw the warm blood from your core to the surface, where it will rapidly cool and give you the symptoms described above.
I follow the advice of the Outdoor Swimming Society and get dry as quickly as possible – so that is off with my wet swimming costume then on with some warm layers – including in my case, a DryRobe to envelope me. I replace my wet neoprene hat, gloves and swimming shoes with dry, warm alternatives – a woolly hat (we are currently developing a new line of hats and scarves. More on this in the coming weeks), a pair of long Swizzle Socks and either Ugg Boots or lined Crocs, and a pair of gloves (we are developing a range of gloves as well). By wearing wool, I don't even need to dry myself before getting it on.
I often take a warm drink with me to sip at afterwards, or failing that I have one when I get home, which is a short drive away, and that also gives me a chance to increase my body warmth with the car heaters on.
I really enjoy my regular swims, no matter what the season as they leave me feeling invigorated and ready for the day but it is important to steadily warm up again to get the full effect.