Open water swimming is becoming increasingly popular, with people all over the world taking to the outdoors in a lake, ocean, or other bodies of open water, but the question is why are so many people taking the plunge? Let’s take a look at the benefits.
With no pool walls or lanes, you can swim in your own space and at your own pace without the concern of anyone tapping at your heels and avoid the lane rage that some people get which can ruin a session. You also feel like you’re getting somewhere rather seeing the same wall over and over again. There is a great sense of achievement looking back to where you’ve swam from and seeing the fruits of your labour.
Being at one with nature
It is a relaxing yet exhilarating experience to be out there as nature intended with plenty of stimulus to keep your mind occupied. It’s recommended to swim in a lake in a controlled environment first before trying out the ocean.
Expanding your social circle
The social benefits are great! There are lots of groups of open water swimmers who get together on a regular basis to enjoy a nice and often cold dip. There is a camaraderie in this sport like no other. You don’t have to participate in the sport to race or even be competitive; you can do it for the sheer enjoyment of being out there.
Physically and mentally challenging
Acclimatising to the cold temperatures of the open water is pretty testing – pushing you both physically and mentally! The heat loss from your skin can be up to 70 times greater than air of equal temperature, therefore training your body’s cold responses is sometimes as much of an achievement as completing the swim itself!
For beginners, wetsuits are recommended to help adjust to the water’s temperature and can improve buoyancy. It is also a great challenge knowing you have no floor to stand up on or side to hang onto, so it does offer a challenge that isn’t there in a confined pool environment.
Cold water can increase energy levels, nerve endings stand up and your heart starts racing – it is the best possible way to get a natural high!
When your body is exposed to cold, it requires more heat to warm you up. Therefore, to do so your body has to process more energy, helping you burn fat more efficiently and increase your metabolism. You will burn approximately 200 more calories per hour more in cold water than in warm pool water when swimming at a similar speed and it provides an all over body workout, so is one of the best forms of exercise there is (and you can get stuck into that bacon sarnie guilt-free afterwards!)
Cold water immersion is a healing technique used among amateur and professional athletes to help with injury and muscle pain. Swimming in such cold water temperatures can have the same desired effect, helping to minimise pain if you have an injury – reducing chronic pain, body aches and inflammation.
Whether you complete your first open water swim or your first competition – simply adapting to the temperature of the water compared to the pool and not being able to see what’s below you is an achievement in itself. The sense of personal accomplishment is pretty amazing, whatever distance you want to cover, from 100 metres to 5k or even as part of an Ironman there is no limit to your enjoyment.
Immune system boost & other health benefits
It has been proven by scientists that by being immersed in cold water three times a week increases your white blood counts which helps fight infection and boost your immune system by activating antibodies and increasing metabolic rate. It also helps flush your circulation pushing blood through your arteries, capillaries and veins as well as flushing any impurities giving you a better feeling of wellbeing. It has even been proven cold water can reduce stress levels and even depression.
Its lots of fun!
It’s a great way to push your fitness, meet new people, laugh a lot and it won’t break the bank. However, beware it is addictive and once you try it you might get hooked like I did!