Our connection to the Atlantic Ocean is at the heart of all we do; whether surfing, swimming or simply feeling the salty air on our cheeks, we'll never take for granted the restorative power of time by the coast.
Increasingly, we know more people are discovering this joy for themselves, recognising the importance of this immersion in nature and heading to the sea. We also know that for some, this is a big step. Throwing yourself into the cold water is something to prepare for, to be informed about. For this reason, we sat down with the very lovely Sarah of 'Cornish Kelpie', an open water swimming coach who brought the Bluetits movement to Cornwall. We asked Sarah to share her 5 top tips for cold water swimming in the winter months.
1. Always dip/swim/swimble with a group – there are many community swim groups out there now so try to join one. If sea swimming, always be aware of tide times and sea conditions and assess before you enter the sea (there are many apps out there to help with this Surfline/ NAT Weather/Windy/ Saferseas – plus many organisations, like The Bluetits, provide a lot of safety advice for water users.)
2. Be prepared – take lots of warm layers of clothing for after your swim; hat, socks, gloves, a blanket of course, and a warm drink. For real luxury, try a hot water bottle wrapped around your clothes, and then up your jumper once dressed and whilst warming up! Tow floats and swim hats are a great safety addition.
3. When going into the cold water, below 15°C, enter the water slowly – try to regulate breathing (sometimes screaming/yelling or swearing helps!!). Cold Water Shock is real, and your body needs time to adjust to the temperature change. Over a period of immersions your body will become more adapted to the CWS affect.
4. “10-minute rule” – try not to stay in water longer than 10 minutes if below 15°C or colder. You will experience the same rush of endorphins in the first 2 minutes however long you stay in. I’m a huge advocate of heads-up breaststroke, you don’t have to put your head under and can even wear a bobble hat when you dip! Many people wear wetsuit boots and gloves but do be mindful not to stay in longer because of them.
5. Get changed fast – sometimes this can be challenging in a lively wind or horizontal rain. Quickly change out of your wet cossie (and ladies - take an old swimming cossie to use as underwear so the core quickly has a warm layer). Add lots more layers and your warmest clothes, a dryrobe if you have one and finish with a warm drink, plus your wonderful sense of achievement.
*Studies on Cold Water Immersion - Prof Mike Tipton MBE Professor of Human & Applied Physiology at the Extreme Environments Laboratory, School of Sport, Health & Exercise Science at the University of Portsmouth
Feeling inspired? Take Sarah's advice and see if there is a local Bluetits' chill swimmers group, or alternative, near you. And if you're lucky enough to be near us in Cornwall, you can book onto one of Sarah's introduction to Cold Water Swimming sessions, find more info here.
About Sarah : Sarah Walsh is a 52-year-old mother of three. She has always been a lover of the sea and moved to Cornwall in 1995 after getting her first permanent infant teaching post.
In January 2020, together with friend Sophie Reeves, Sarah started the Perranporth Bluetits Cold Water swimmers. The founder of The Bluetits, Sian Richardson, is based in Pembrokeshire and it was after seeing Sian on a BBC "Menopause Week" programme that the seed for Perranporth Bluetits was planted! Sian was fundamental in encouraging the set up of the Perranporth group and it's success plus Sarah's enthusiasm meant she went on to set up many other Bluetit groups in Cornwall, including Newquay, St Austell, Bodmin, Portreath, Porthtowan and Falmouth, many other local swim groups also started around this time. It was incredible and the swimming groups grew very quickly. During the pandemic the swim community was a lifeline for many people, with guidelines meaning that groups swam in pairs, pods of 6 and flocks. Sarah swims every day of the year, conditions permitting!
"I feel so privileged to be doing something that I absolutely love. Not only has sea swimming changed my life for the better, but it has also changed thousands of Bluetits chill swimmers lives - we have over 20,000 in Cornwall alone. I feel so very proud to have been a part of that, and the rapid growth of Cold Water Swimming in Cornwall."
It's this love, passion, and enthusiasm for the positive benefits of Cold Water Swimming that has led Sarah to train as an "Open Water Swimming Coach' - STA Level 2 and Outdoor First Aider, and to set up Cornish Kelpie.
"There have been many links to the benefits of cold-water swimming helping with the menopause, mental health issues, and now with dementia as well - it is exhilarating and life affirming and is very much a fabulous natural healing tonic!"
Through Cornish Kelpie Sarah offers "Introductory Sessions to Cold Water Swimming" as a qualified swim coach. Through her work and experience with the Bluetits, sea safety is paramount and this is a major part of the sessions. Sessions are designed to be fun, exhilarating, and always celebrated with coffee and cake!
We hope that Sarah's 5 top tips for cold water swimming in the winter months has inspired you to find your swim community and to head out into the ocean, we promise you won't regret it, and we promise the Atlantic Blankets range has just what you need to warm up afterwards!
See you in the ocean x
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