Wild Swimming Safety Tips for Beginners
Wild swimming is the most wonderful experience. There is something invigorating about feeling the cold, natural waters of rivers, lakes, and seas against your skin.
As well as providing an immediate sense of relaxation, it also has many benefits, such as soothing aching muscles, releasing endorphins, and relieving stress. If you keep at it, your body starts to adapt to the cold and at this point, cold water immersion is clinically proven to relieve depression, boost your immune system, tone your muscles, and even increase your libido.
While I love the sense of freedom wild swimming provides, it’s important to remember that it can be dangerous. So, here are my top 10 tips for staying safe in the water this summer.
1. Check the water quality
Have a good look at the water before diving in – is it clean and clear? You want it to be free of blue-green algae and scum. Avoid urban rivers, stagnant lakes, and canals as these are more likely to contain harmful bacteria.
2. Have an exit point
Check that when you enter the water you can exit safely, and if not there, then have a point in mind to aim for to exit. It’s really important that you do this before getting in, as if something does go wrong and you end up panicking, it becomes harder to think clearly.
3. No swimming alone
It is always best to swim with someone else, whether that’s a friend, other like-minded people at the water, or as part of a guided swim. Not only is it safer to have other people around to help should the worst happen, but it’s often more enjoyable too.
4. Avoid other water users
Keep an eye out for other traffic in the water. Jet skis and motor boats can be dangerous and are unpleasant to swim around. Try to time your swim so that it is at a quieter time of day our move to a different part of the lake, sea or further down stream a river for a quieter location.
5. Have the right gear
Being visible in the water is key for safety. Make sure you have a bright coloured swim hat or tow float so you are easily seen. The tow float will be essential for your safety should you get into difficulty. Neoprene gloves and boots might be an idea too if you feel the cold and wish to stay in the water longer.
6. Have a plan (and pack) for warming up
Know that when you come out of the water you core body temperature will have probably dropped quite a bit, so have all you clothes laid out ready, with towel and coat to hand. A thermos with a hot drink at the ready is perfect too. My favourite is warm Ribena – that bit of sweetness is the perfect pick me up after a cold swim.
7. Don’t panic
Sometimes the cold water can be unsettling, so it’s really important to stay calm and focus on your breathing if you do feel distressed. Relax, count your breaths, inhale 1, exhale 2…. Hold onto you tow float if need be whilst you acclimatise and tread water for a bit whilst you get your breath back and your mind calm.
8. Don’t drive straight away
Take five minutes at least to get warm. You need to know that you are 100% before you drive. You hands and feet might feel numb and you might not coordinated, so take as much time as you need. More time for tea drinking!
9. Understand the water
The UK has a host of amazing places to swim but m are sure you understand the depth, speed and type of water you are entering before swimming. Slowly wading in is always a great idea. Never dive you never know what lies beneath.
10. Know your limits
Start with short swims, there are no prizes for staying in the water till your toes fall off! There is a lot of science behind the benefits of the cold water but gradually build up to longer periods in the water. A couple of minutes may well be enough to start. Never put yourself in dangerous situation because of something you have been told or read.
Most importantly enjoy yourself, remember you are doing this for fun!
If you do feel you would benefit from some guidance, why not join us on an expertly guided wild swim retreat in Wales or the Lake District? We have a range of of 3-day, 4-day, and 5-day retreats happening all summer! Click here to find out more and book your place.