Festive Dip Guide - Staying safe and dealing with the cold
Taking the plunge and diving into cold water on Christmas Day, Boxing Day or New Year’s Day is rapidly becoming a popular festive tradition. Whether it involves putting on fancy dress for charity, or just getting in the freezing water with your mates, thousands of people around the country celebrate Christmas or ring in the New Year with a chilly dip surrounded by hundreds of other like-minded swimmers.
Whilst there are also loads of benefits to immersing yourself in cold water (and it’s a pretty fun thing to do!) it’s also important to remember to stay safe whenever your heading into the cold open water. We’ve put together a quick guide to help you prepare for your winter dip.
Where to go?
It seems like anywhere with cold, open water there’s an organised festive swim!
Outdoor Swimmer and Wild Swim have both put together lists of awesome events happening around the UK and Ireland where you’ll find plenty of people to jump in with.
Why take the plunge?
The benefits of getting out there and into chilly water are well documented. Outdoor swimming and cold water immersion has been shown to help to reduce anxiety, improve circulation, boost your mood and help you to both connect with nature and increase your social circle.
Our friends The Happy Pear go swimming in the sea every morning, they spoke to us about the benefits of their daily ‘Swimrise’:
"Since summer 2016 we have been swimming at sunrise! Now a community of like-minded, brave souls has developed and we meet at the beach every morning for our ‘morning wash’, followed by a huddle around a warm cup of tea and good chats."
"Swimrise is a magic way to start the day and very symbolic too. As soon as our heads hit the water we feel so much more alive and connected to ourselves and nature. The cold sea is so bracing that our worries and stresses seem to disappear."
Whilst the festive dips are all about having fun, it’s still important to respect the water. A lot of these swims now are large scale, organised events with their own safety procedures in place, but many are much smaller, so it’s really important that you are prepared for the risks involved.
We spoke to our partners at RLSS UK about staying safe when taking part in festive dips and they gave us their advice for anyone looking to get in the water:
- Make sure you go with an organised group
- Always tell someone where you are going and how long you intend to be
- Make sure you have the right equipment to enter the water
- Take warm, dry clothes to change into and a sheltered place to change (or a dryrobe!) warm hats, gloves and socks are essential
- Take a flask with a warm drink and food to re-fuel and re-warm after your dip
Dealing with the cold water!
If you’ve not been for a winter dip before you’ll need to be prepared for the cold! Getting into the winter water can be a massive shock to the body. dryrobe ambassador and Great British Swim legend Ross Edgley has some great tips dealing with the cold temperatures you’ll hit out in the open water.
Educate yourself about cold water shock: “A lot of people when they go into cold water get a shock response, they gasp for air and they immediately say ‘Hypothermia!’. No, you’ve been in 5 seconds, it’s not hypothermia you’re experiencing cold water shock, that’s very normal. Educating yourself about cold water management means that when the cold sets in you can face it with a stoic, sports science response so you can keep calm, rather than getting in the water and panicking.”
Acclimatise as quickly as possible: “Use your time to acclimatise quickly as possible in the water, so that then interacts with your biomechanics, when swimming in pacing strategies. You may be a good swimmer, but cold water is completely different. When you’re trying to swim in cold water that will affect your cardiorespiratory system. All of a sudden you are no longer bilaterally breathing, you’re gasping for air every other stroke.”
Manage the cold: "Some people don’t understand that once you get out of the water your body and your core temperature are still dropping, you are still cooling. So people get out of the water and they think they’re done and they’re not.
That’s the time you need to stick on a dryrobe. During the Great British Swim, I’d get out of the water and sometimes what I would do is start hitting burpees in my dryrobe on the boat! People were like “Are you not exhausted?!” and yeah I was exhausted, but I know my temperature is still dropping, so before I’d get into bed I’d need to warm my core temperature up!"
Watch Olympian and sports scientist Professor Greg Whyte OBE explain the importance of staying warm once you get out of the water:
Wherever you ended up swimming we’d love to see what you get up to, make sure you tag your photos on social media with #dryrobeterritory. Have fun out there!