According to Sport England, 4.7 million people swim twice or more a month, making it one of the most popular physical activities in the country.
But how many people would dare take a dip in chlorine-free open water?
Wild swimming has risen in popularity in the past year with swimming pools being closed to the public due to the pandemic – even Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark is among those who love to plunge in the great outdoors.
Bewl Water is Kent’s only certified Swim Smooth Centre – the methodology used by all British Triathlon and British Swimming Coaches – making it the only place to receive safe open swimming coaching.
Laura Ansell, a Swim Smooth Coach who runs the open water swims at Bewl, told the Times how to prepare for your first dip.
She said: “Like with any exercise, before you get started, you should consider your overall health and talk to your doctor if you have any concerns taking on new exercise routines.
“Consider what you choose to wear both in and out of the water. Loose fitting clothes in the water can cause drag and make you feel tired.
“Some people opt to wear a wetsuit which offers buoyancy and warmth when swimming outside, this is certainly advisable if you are new to open water swimming, but it is not essential.
“Many people enjoy swimming in the same swimwear they would wear in a swimming pool along with a brightly coloured swim hat for safety.
“When you get out of the water you will immediately feel cold and will continue to that way for some time after your swim, so you should consider bringing easy-to-put-on clothing that you can change into quickly to help you warm up. Jogging bottoms, jumpers and a beanie hat are all inspired choices!
“Bringing along a warm drink and a sweet treat for after your swim will also help you warm up and replace any sugars you lost through exercise – it’s a great excuse to eat a big bit of cake!”
Four health benefits of open swimming
Bewl’s water temperature is a bracing 12.1 degrees celsius, but spending time in the cold water has many benefits as Laura Ansell shares…
1. Feeling Happy
Have you ever had a cold shower or bath and it made your skin sting a little? Swimming in cold water has a similar effect! Your brain will see this as a ‘fight or flight’ situation and will release endorphins (natural painkillers produced by your brain to protect your body and prevent shock).
These endorphins will make you feel ‘alive’ and ‘awake’ when in the water, and when back on dry land will leave you feeling positive and accomplished all day long. Being outdoors and meeting with like-minded people can also help us feel happy by feeling included and having a sense of community and shared ownership of challenge and experiences.
2. Gets the blood flowing When our body gets cold, our arteries, veins, and capillaries contract, causing the heart to have to pump a little bit harder to get the warm blood around your body.
Your heart will also want to beat faster to keep your vital organs warm and working well, it is like your own built-in central heating system!
When we regularly submerge in cold water, it will strengthen your heart and circulatory system, making it a great choice of exercise for overall health.
3. Get a good night’s sleep
When we consider the two above benefits; increased circulation and happy feelings, another hidden benefit will make itself known; better quality sleep.
Cold water submersion activates your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) which is the key factor in creating a sense of relaxation and allowing the body to calmly relax into sleep.
When we combine PNS with cardio exercise and the lingering endorphins we experienced, it all means that we are in the best position to relax and fall into a deep and highly repairing sleep.
We’ve covered increased cardio, endorphins and PNS in our nervous system, but when we combine all three of these fascinating processes, we can then begin to think about our endocrine system.
This clever system is responsible for producing hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood, among other things.
It’s the ‘grand master’ of all the great benefits listed above.
When we regularly submerge ourself in colder water and swim outdoors, this clever system will help you lose and/or maintain your weight, it will strengthen your hair, nails and skin (saving your loads of money on expensive beauty products), it will help your skin to repair itself quicker and glow with health and it can even boost the production of testosterone in men (a handy tool for those looking to start a family).
The more you take a plunge in open water, the more this endocrine system gets to flex its power and get stronger, reducing the likelihood of getting common coughs and colds, improving heart and organ health and even reducing the risk of dementia and some cancers.
So, what are you waiting for? Come and join us!
For more information visit: bewlwater.co.uk/activities/open-water-swimming