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6 Top Tips for Cold Water Swimming.

6 Top Tips for Cold Water Swimming.

Welcome to our Seashell blog posts where we dive into the stories of the Seashell people, share our advice and experience to help build the community. We hope to use this space and platform to inspire others and to start important conversations. Let's get exploring!


Cold water swimming

Here are our top tips for being prepared for cold water swimming.

1. Be safe.

There is always an element of risk with anything we do but with cold water swimming there is potentially a little more. 

Here are some things to think about before you head out:

  • Do your research before heading to your swimming spot. Find swimming groups online to see if anyone else has experience of swimming there.
  • Try to find swimming spots there are safe where you can enter and exit the water quickly and easily. 
  • NEVER go alone. It is easy to underestimate how dangerous swimming alone is. Always have someone with you, even if they are not swimming but watching from the side. 
  • Wear/use a tow float. Although you can use it as a light aid, you don't have to use this as a buoyancy aid if you don't want, more so so that others can see you. If you are swimming in a place where there are boats then using a tow floats is extremely important for the boat drivers to see you. You will be surprised how difficult it is to see a swimmer in the water without a bright tow float.
Seashell Drying Robe before diving.

2. Know your limits.

It is easy to watch others head out into the water and think we can just strip down and do the same. 

Maybe in the summer when the water and air temperature are at its warmest but is doesn't take much for everything to cool down, even on a summers day. 


Especially if it is your first time, do not be affraid of not going in for very long. If you push yourself too much and stay in for longer than is healthy you could get into some trouble. The cold will affect everyone in different ways but if you are out and far away from your car, other people or help in general and you are struggling with the cold, your body will start to shut down. 

It is better to air on the side of caution and be in for less time but know you are not going to push yourself way past your limits and be unsafe. 


You can build up the time being in the water over time. There is no rush. You want to build a healthy and enjoyable experience with cold water swimming.

Men on the beach
A man in a beanie

3. Have the right kit for in the water.

Some choose to wear extra thick neoprene wetsuits and others choose to only wear a swimming costume. 

It is completely up to you what you wear. 

Here is some equipment you can wear in the water with some that can help keep you warmer so you can stay in the water for a little longer when it is very cold.

  • Swimming Costume Trunks.
  • Goggles (you can get wider lenses for open water swimming so you can see more and feel less dizzy).
  • Silicone Cap.
  • Neoprene cap (try wearing the neoprene cap underneath the silicone cap).
  • Neoprene swimming wetsuits (I would recommend this instead of a surfing wetsuit as there is usually more flexibility in the arms and buoyancy in the legs to help you swim).
  • Neoprene gloves.
  • Neoprene booties - Helps for getting in and out of the water. 
  • Tow float (this is more to be seen by others but you can also hold onto this if you are struggling and will help you a little with boyancy).

4. Acclimatise.

Our bodies are incredible things however they need time to acclimatise to different environments. If you are new to cold water swimming then make sure to start little by little. There are no hero awards for staying in the longest especially when you first start. 


Everyone is different when it comes to acclimatising. Try 30 seconds in the cold water, then try 40 the next time and keep going until your body then gets used to it.


It is also important to acclimatise for each swim if you can. Slowly get into the water and let your body get used to the cold rather than just plunging straight in (especially is the water is extremely cold). Sometimes this is harder to do but you will probably find you can then be in the water for longer, are less panicky and enjoy it more. 


5. Breathing.

It can be easy to get ahead of ourselves, see the water and want to jump straight in. That is normally okay when it is warmer but when it is cold water, things can change very quickly.

You can be the strongest swimmer out there, but if you start to panic and struggle to breathe then it is going to get very hard very quickly when doing cold water swimming.


Whist you are stripping down to your wetsuit or swimming costume etc start to actively think about what you are about to do. 

Begin to focus your attention to your breathing pattern. Now begin to take deeper and longer breaths. Think about the water and how it may feel on your skin. 

As you begin to wade or lower yourself into the water, really concentrate hard on continuing those deep breaths. The first thing you will want to do is maybe let out a little scream, laugh or hyperventilate. 


Keep the breaths going. If you are dipping then you don't have to put your head under the water but if you are going for a swim, keep focusing on that breath. If you end up holding your breath whilst you are swimming, stop, reset and go again until you are inhaling above the water and exhaling down under the water. 


If in doubt turn onto your back and  BREATHE! 

Swimmer heading out into the sea

6. Warm up from the inside out post swim. What to do + kit.

Once you decide to leave the water, when you are on dry land again you may experience that your body feels tingly and even warm all over.

Don't be fooled by this. 

A common phenomenon with cold water swimming is the “afterdrop".

This is when you get out of the water you feel absolutely fine but than you start to get colder and colder. You can start to shiver violently, grow faint and feel unwell. 


There are some things to do to try avoid this. 

Warm yourself up from the inside out!

Although it is tempting to just run straight into a hot shower straight after being in cold water, it will more than likely hurt. Especially if you have been in the cold water for a long time. You may experience your nails getting very sore in the shower as the hot water is too much for them to handle as the blood is trying to get back to them.


Here are some ways to help you warm up:

  • As soon as you get out of the water put a beanie/warm hat on. This will help to stop the heat escaping from your head.
  • Strip off all your wet layers and dry yourself and soon as possible. A towelling robe is great for this so you can do both at the same time. 
  • Try to stand on something dry like a towel to help heat your feet up. This will help when you get to putting your shoes on. Your hands and feet tend to feel numb during and after cold water swimming as the blood from them travels to the vital organs to keep them running.
  • Layer up: Thick joggers, lose thermals (it is hard to put on tight clothing so it is better if it is slightly baggy), towelling robes, warm fluffy changing robes, gloves, fluffy socks and easy to put on shoes. 
  • Have a hot water bottle that has been waiting and ready to use. You can put it in the pocket of your towelling robe or can hold it in your hands to heat them up for example.
  • Take a flask and sip a warm drink to help warm the body from inside out.
  • Having a dry bag is great to carry all of your wet and dry kit especially when you are cold. Chuck it all in and sort it later when you have warmed up.
  • Cake! This isn't essential but actually eating something sugary will help raise the body temperature and well, why not? 
  • If you have a car that you can put all the heaters on then head there to sit for a while as you warm up.
  • If you don't have a car then get moving. Start by walking and then swinging the arms around and maybe doing some air squats etc. It may take some time to get the body temperature up so start easy and build into it. 
  • When you get home or somewhere near a shower, only go in when you feel you have managed to warm upa little. Put the shower on luke warm and build it up gradually.
  • If you got very very cold whilst swimming you may find yourself being tired during the day until you get used to doing more so make sure to keep eating and drink well throughout the day.

One last tip - Have fun!

Although there are lots of things to think about when it comes to being safe whilst cold water swimming, get out there and enjoy it. 

What it does to you physically and mentally is unbelievable and quite hard to put into words how it makes you feel.
Make sure to bring friends with you, bring some food and a hot drink and enjoy being out in natures playground. Breathe and enjoy!

Rated No.1 


"Seashell Robes have the best robes on the market and they’re growing in popularity."  


"Not only do Seashell make waterproof changing robes, but they also have their own community. Seashell practice what they preach and put their products to good use in wild swimming and fitness community events up in Scotland."  

Cold water swimming

Seashell.

Thank you very much for reading our blog post. We hope it helps you for your next cold water swimming trip.


Our aim is to share other people's stories. Whether you have a story about mental health, community or why you started wild swimming for example. 

If you would like to be featured in our Seashell stories then email us on: support@seashellcsc.com    

Boats on Scottish Loch
Boats on Loch Morlich

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