Be Prepared For Winter Swimming

Autumn days are definitely here, we have experienced some spectacular sunrises and sunsets, there is a chill in the air and the water temperatures are being brought down by those intermittent rain falls.

If you have still to see one of these amazing sunrises, then why not join us over the next few weeks as the sunrise swims are around 0730 / 0830 from now until the Winter Solstice. We have a sunrise swim to welcome the new month on the 1st day of the month.

There are also;

  • “Dips in Dawn” on Monday mornings 0800 at Groyn 5, Portobello
  • “Mindful Mornings” on Thursday mornings 0800 at Groyn 5, Portobello
  • “Dips in the Dark” on Monday evenings at 1900 at Wardie Bay

Over the Summer months, we have loved continuing to help our swimmers improve their confidence and techniques in the varied open water environments and ever changing conditions. Our membership groups have allowed swimmers to share their knowledge and tips on safe and enjoyable swimming. We are looking forward to assisting 2022 new start swimmers who want to swim through the Autumn and on into the Winter.

Enjoy the lower swimming temperatures -how to stay safe and rewarm quickly.

Be Prepared 

Don’t be lulled into a false sense of security because you have been swimming in the same venue all Summer. Continue to carefully research each and every swim. Every swim is different and affected by how you feel.

Research each of these;

  • the weather
  • the wind direction and speed
  • the tide times
  • the height of the tide
  • rainfall and water levels

Use the weather apps, like BBC Weather and the Met Office, the tide apps, like My Tide Times and Magic Seaweed.

Do your research the day before into the known variables. Make an early call if conditions are not right, it might be you choose to go later in the day because the tide is more favourable. Or earlier because there is a good weather window. Or even to a different venue to shelter from the wind. It may be that you choose not to swim the next day due to significant rainfall and the likelihood of poor water quality. If you do decide to swim after rainfall, you should note that the temperature of the water will be lower. Other precautions might be to cover any cuts or grazes and choose not to submerge your head.

On the day of the swim make considered and informed choices. You should arrive at your swim venue having considered all the known variables, you then need to assess what is presenting itself to you – there and then. A dynamic risk assessment.

The wind is probably the most important aspect of a Winter swim, it can make for a cold and unpleasant experience. It also contributes to your body temperature dropping quickly and significantly after a swim. It is important to search out shelter, bring multiple layers, including a windproof top layer, as well as hat, gloves and scarf.

However, some of the best swims are the short unexpectedly beautiful Winter ones with zingy skin and frozen feet. So what can you do to mitigate the cold and stay safe?

Swim Regularly

Over the Autumn months you really need to keep swimming outdoors once a week in order to remain acclimatised. So planning more than one swim a week is essential, as cancellations will occur. If you swim regularly – whether in skins or wetsuit, you should use the gradual drop in the water temperatures during the Autumn, to become aware of how your body is coping. This mindful practice will allow you to develop an ability to note key signs that are personal to you and your red flag signal to “get out”. 

It might be that your body feels heavy in the water as the blood is pulled from the extremities to the core. As this occurs the legs work less effectively and drop lower in the water causing drag. This is the start of cold water incapacitation, test yourself regularly – “Can I touch my thumb to my middle finger on the same hand, easily and quickly?” your inability to do this is a key sign that you need to get out and quickly. Your hands begin to feel stiff and claw like. If you are a Reynaulds sufferer, you will be aware of how this feels already but the progression is more rapid and debilitating in the Winter months. We all must ensure we are able to exit at an early juncture with energy reserves in place to allow us to be able to get dressed afterwards.

Post Swim Precautions 

We cannot recommend highly enough the value of lots and lots and lots of layers!!! The Autumn is the time to build these back into your routine, or add them if you have not started yet. We regularly put seven layers on our top halves after a swim. How? I hear you ask!! Try this list out next time you swim.

  • Bra – but only if Swim Adventuring
  • Vest – easy to put on as you remove your swim suit.
  • Thermal long sleeved top
  • T-Shirt – sometimes only to advertise Wild Swim Scotland!
  • Fleece
  • Down Jacket
  • Gillet
  • DryRobe or Windproof Jacket
Loads of Layers

We regularly add waterproof / windproof over trousers on top of our regular loose trousers to help stave of the shivers.

With extremities getting double layers as well, wool socks and thermal or sheepskin lined boots for the feet and wool or thermal gloves and handmade wool wrist warmers to protect the hands. All topped off with a cosy handmade neck warmer and wool and fleece lined hat.

Scottish Outdoor Knowledge 

The more ofter you swim the more tips you will pick up to help you deal with the Winter cold. Many of you are already Outdoor enthusiasts and know to seek shelter and find places to drop out of the wind. If you have the ability to organise and structure people and things, this ability will stand you in good stead. Making organised piles of kit on the shore, ready for your exit will reduce the faff time and allow you to dry and dress more quickly. Scottish weather is always changing and it is better to go to a Winter swim prepared for the worst conditions. This can mean you carry a lot of kit to a swim but you can often end up wearing everything you brought with you, just to enjoy that post swim drink and chat.

So what extra equipment might you add to your already expanding swim kit as Autumn moves into Winter?

  • A large waterproof bag to leave your kit in whilst you swim.
  • A bottle of warm water to pour over frozen feet.
  • A tub to put the warm water in and make a little foot bath.
  • A set of reusable hand warmers left in shoes whilst you swim – cosy shoes!
  • A hot water bottle – contents can eventually be used to rinse off kit.
  • A mat to stand on and get your feet of the cold earth / sand.
  • Hot Drink and Cake – Obviously!!!!!!

This is an OUTDOOR PURSUIT with risks factors which can and should be mitigated – you should not put yourself and others at risk .

With due care and attention you will have safe and enjoyable swims, dips and dooks all Winter but maybe not every day.

Wild Swim Scotland’s YouTube Channel Video Link HERE – Winter Kit Advice

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