Why We Love Outdoor Swimming

3 Dec 2019 | 0 comments

There’s nothing quite like a quick plunge into cold water to get your heart racing, your skin tingling, and a whopping great grin on your face as adrenaline and euphoria rush through you.

With the sea only a few miles away, and our own ponds here at Trill Farm, many of us are enthusiastic cold water swimmers. We often head to the sea after a hot summer day in the garden, and share an evening BBQ on the beach. Or take an extended autumn lunch break together when we know the warm days are drawing to a close.

When winter comes, the sea stays warmer than the air until into the new year, and swims on still, bright mornings, when the sun can warm your skin, are the perfect anecdote to almost any ill.

To encourage you out into the water this winter, here are a few of our insights, tips and tricks for one of our favourite pursuits:

Romy's favourite times for swims are the clear, crisp autumn mornings, when the sea holds the heat of the summer. "I can generally swim outside up to Christmas, but after that forget it!” she says.

Fiona, our herb garden co-ordinator, grew up on Guernsey where she was never more than 4km from the sea. Her tips are:

  • If you do nothing else, a jump in the sea makes it a good day
  • Wind is the enemy of a good swim; choose a day when it is still
  • Have a towel ready and near to the shoreline so you can quickly wrap up and dry off when you get out. Hoodies come into their own and are perfect to pull on over a base layer after a swim, it covers your head and the back of the neck, giving you extra seconds and valuable warmth as you sort out your bottom half. 

Thomas is possibly more hardcore than any of us, a member of the 2017 Irish Ice Swimming Team and ‘Ice mile’ member of the International Ice Swimming Association:

In between making and drinking mead I love to swim; wild swimming all year round and a little bit of competitive and endurance cold water swimming in the winter. In fact, if you win the Irish Ice Swimming Championships your prize includes a bottle of my mead.

I love the beautiful places that I find myself swimming in; floating on your back is a great way to observe a river, or a striking coastline. I love the sense of submitting yourself to nature as you sink into cold dark water and feel the force of surging waves and currents. There are few things as exhilarating as the fight to keep swimming, as the cold bites at your skin and cools your muscles. Once you have recovered from the mild-moderate hypothermia, you will be filled with elation that lasts all day.

My top tips would be to have easy to put on clothes, as your fingers might be too numb for zips and buttons. Try putting on a warm hat over your swim cap and I like to have a hot water bottle to stuff inside my clothes and hug.

Chris Holland advocates a morning swim in the Trill Farm ponds during family camps, to calm the mind and get the blood flowing before a campfire breakfast.

Mariel has seasalt running through her veins, a child of the Dorset beaches just up the coast from the farm.

The sea has been a constant throughout my life; a place for celebrations, commiserations and calming the mind. I swim all year round, on days when the sun is shining and the air is still, and have yet to find a better tonic for stress, anxiety or the grey cloud that can engulf us on the dark days of winter. I have never regretted a swim in the sea, but have often regretted not going in!

Finally, Tamsin swims whenever she visits the farm, but lives in London so gets her cold water fix at the outdoor lido instead.

As the nerves build on the way to the pool I wonder why I do this every week. I tell myself I’ll be disappointed if I turn back. I let every reason to go home wash over me in the knowledge that I won’t die and I won’t regret it. As I start to get changed I feel the cold radiating off the swimmers who are done. The waves of doubt build. The body and mind are not united in this moment.

Poolside, I see friendly faces. This is it. I go in - fast is the only way for me, no diving, just one, two, three, in. It is 7.5 degrees this week and I feel every bit of it. I submerge my body, my breath gets faster, my body reacting to the cold. The first 50 meters are the worst as the blood abandons my fingers and toes. As my face enters the water, my body takes a breath automatically. I focus my mind, regulate my breathing. My body is numbing, my skin feels electric.

As I swim, I focus on the sky. There is no bad weather to swim in a lido. Feeling the weather on my skin, no matter how cold, windy or wet feels good, connecting me to the elements. I chat with fellow swimmers, bonded by the extremity of our choices.

The last length is slow as I start to feel the cold to my core, there is less strength in my muscles and I know it’s time to get out. With skin tingling and fingers and toes numb, there is pain. Back in the changing room it’s busy, belongings everywhere, there is chatting and watching out for one another. We have a shared secret. It’s a clumsy, numb-fingered race to get showered and put on as many layers as I can. I take a flask of tea to sip as I get changed. Warming up from the inside is needed. As I push through the turnstile I’m starting to feel my toes again. I feel clearer, stronger and completely alive. 

For me cold water swimming is about filtering out the noise, keeping the mind quiet, choosing to be brave, letting the pain go, and as a result feeling stronger, feeling calmer, unbeatable.

There are plenty of tips for getting into outdoor swimming on the excellent Outdoor Swimming Society’s website here. Good luck, and let us know how you get on!