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A dip in the ocean: open water swimming for everyone

13 May 2022 at 9:22AM

With World Ocean Day looming next month, we wanted to celebrate open water swimming – something which will truly test your confidence, discipline and sense of adventure. It’s a unique experience catered to adrenaline-seekers and far different than swimming in the confines of a pool.

Open water swimming, sometimes referred to as wild swimming or outdoor swimming, can take place anywhere that isn’t a swimming pool. This includes:

  • Lakes
  • Rivers
  • Lochs
  • Seas
  • Reservoirs

Having said this, it is recommended that you never go open water swimming alone – and you must also check local permissions for swimming access.

Much of the time when open water swimming, you may find that you are not able to put your feet down and you also have to consider that there may be plants, fish and other things living in the water! But the freedom and lack of chemicals in open water can help you to leave the water feeling happy and invigorated.

Let’s have a look at some of the benefits of open water swimming:

  1. Wide open space: ordinarily, there are virtually no boundaries to obstruct you while you’re swimming, unlike being in a swimming pool. Even if you went with a large group, you’ll all have plenty of space to venture out into the water without fear of colliding into anyone.
  2. Boosts the immune system: the lack of chemicals in the water can have a positive effect on our body, but cold water also increases your levels of the antioxidant glutathione, regulating the antioxidant process and strengthening your immune system.
  3. Supports weight loss: in order to keep warm in colder water temperatures, your body has to burn more fat and produce more energy, therefore burning more calories and supporting weight loss. You can burn around 200 more calories per hour in cold water than you can in warm water typically found in swimming pools, and more specifically, cold water actually burns brown fat – the fat that is harder to get rid of through diet and exercise.
  4. Helps with injuries and muscle aches: a popular healing technique amongst athletes and weight trainers is being immersed in cold water, including ice baths. Being in cold water narrows the arteries and can reduce chronic pain and inflammation, as well as improve circulation.
  5. Improves mental health: we all love that feeling of post-exercise elation, usually referred to as ‘runner’s high’. Well move over runners – because open water swimming can produce a significant endorphin high – particularly if you are immersed in cold water. The release of endorphins acts as a natural pain reliever and increases your tolerance to stress, while reducing depression and anxiety.

Before you embark on your open water swimming journey, it’s always good to plan ahead and consider where you’re going to swim. If you’re a beginner, it’s wise to choose a lifeguarded beach or a designated swimming lake. If there is no lifeguard cover, it’s good to know where you can exit and enter the water, as well as your location and any potential hazards to be aware of. It definitely won’t hurt to check the tide times before entering the water.

Other things to consider may be:

  • Wearing a wetsuit
  • Wearing a brightly coloured/reflective swimming hat and swim buoy
  • Checking the safety of the swimming location as well as the weather in advance
  • Carrying a means of calling for help with you, such as a waterproof swim buoy or pouch with a mobile phone

Next month we welcome World Ocean Day, which is a day to commemorate the protection of the ocean and sustainable management of its resources. The ocean plays a crucial role in removing carbon from the atmosphere and providing oxygen, as well as providing minerals such as iron, copper and salt.

To honour the day, we’ve put together the World Oceans Day Challenge which you can sign up for now!

We encourage our Virtual Club members to use this day as a way to engage with the sea and open water swimming (if you’re not close to the sea), discover these beautiful natural resources, get fit, and maybe even get a little out of your comfort zone!