Tips for open water swimming

Blog - Tips For Open Water Swimming – Inspiration from ‘Sink or Swim’

Tips For Open Water Swimming – Inspiration from ‘Sink or Swim’

6 minute read

Swimming the English Channel is one of the toughest swimming challenges out there. Once considered to be impossible, people can train for years to swim the 21 miles of open water across the world’s busiest shipping lane.

In aid of Stand Up to Cancer, 11 celebrities agreed to take on this legendary swim as part of a relay team, but there was a twist - all of them were non-swimmers and they only had twelve weeks to train for this gargantuan challenge! Prior to starting they either had a fear of the open water or they were taught to swim when they were younger but now struggle to do so for health reasons.

A mixture of different ages and backgrounds, the celebrities taking on the 'Sink or Swim' challenge were Olympic gold medallist Linford Christie, Coronation Street star Sair Khan, comedian Alex Brooker, popstar Simon Webbe, TV presenter Diane Louise Jordan, reality star James Argent, Love Island contestant Wes Nelson, ‘The Only Way Is Essex’ star Georgia Kousoulou, Olympic medal-winning track and field athlete Greg Rutherford, ‘Hollyoaks’ actress Rachel Adedej and six-time Olympic javelin-thrower and heptathlete Tessa Sanderson.

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Series FINALE of #SinkOrSwim tonight at 9:15pm on @channel4 as the team attempt to swim a relay across the English Channel AFTER ONLY learning to swim 12 WEEKS BEFORE! Regardless of the outcome, they’re already ALL heroes in my eyes all because they selflessly put their fears (and egos) to one side, learnt to swim on TV in front of millions and have raised SO much for @su2cuk 💪🏽SO IMMENSELY proud of them all! WARNING: There will be tides and tears 🔱Who’s been watching it? Favourite part so far? (tag friends) Broseidons @alex_brooker @linford_christie @wes.nelson @real_arg @gregjrutherford @simonwebbe1 and sea sisters @sairkhan @tessasandersoncbe @racheladedeji @georgiakousoulou @dianelouisejordan

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We’re proud to have been able to supply the celebrities involved with custom Sink or Swim dryrobes to help them on their challenge, keeping them warm and dry out of the water and on the support boats. Celebrity trainers Ross Edgley and Keri-anne Payne were also spotted in their own unique dryrobes, Ross in his sky blue dryrobe that celebrates his record-breaking swim around Great Britain, and Keri-anne in the Team GB dryrobe created especially for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

Screen Grab from Channel 4's Sink Or Swim

As well as raising money for Stand Up To Cancer they also aimed to help erase the stigma of being a non-swimmer and inspire other adults to get back into swimming. 

With the popularity of wild swimming surging in the UK we’ve put together some advice for anyone looking to get out there into the open water for the first time.

Olympian and sports scientist Greg Whyte OBE, who helped the 'Sink or Swim' celebrities with their fitness, has been passionate about open water swimming since his father first took him to the river as a boy.


Greg is a firm believer that exercising outdoors significantly increases its effectiveness:

“We know that physical activity reduces all-cause mortality, this means a reduction in cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, but also things like cancer are lower in people who are physically active.

Add on top of that we get mental and emotional health benefits, we also get social benefits as we invariably do exercise with other people.

The great thing about outdoors is it takes those benefits and actually elevates them, particularly when it comes to emotional and mental health. There’s research that shows we can improve that just by simply taking our exercise from the indoors into the great outdoors."

Check out Greg’s advice for staying warm after a swim:

Celebrity Sink or Swim trainer and dryrobe ambassador 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.”

Ross Edgley

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!"

Ross Edgley Great British Swim

Getting into the icy cold sea is an occupational habit for 6 X National Women’s Surf Champ, Lucy Campbell. Dryrobe ambassador Lucy shares her advice for motivating yourself to get in the water when the temperature drops.

Lucy Campbell

“Get the tunes on while you're on the way to the beach. The cheesier the better - if it makes you want to sing along, PERFECT. (I’m not judging)”

“Dress up warm. Warm clothes first, dryrobe to get changed in - don’t start cold or the grey ocean just won't be appealing at all.”

Lucy Campbell

“Set yourself a little goal. Even on the rubbish days if you set yourself a challenge, you’ll be way more determined to get in and will always come out happy after achieving it!”

“Go with a friend. It's always more fun to get in the water with someone else! You can motivate and push each other to get in there. (Plus then there's no backing out!)”

Lucy Campbell Sea Swimming

Catch up on episodes of 'Sink or Swim' on All 4 and find out how you can support Stand Up To Cancer here.

Learn more about the health benefits of swimming in the sea