The Ultimate Guide to Building a Tolerance to Cold Water

March 15, 2024
5 min read

Are you a summertime open water swimmer looking to build up your tolerance to cold water so that you can swim with us year round? Or perhaps you’re new to wild swimming, but have heard about the numerous benefits of swimming in cold water? 

Whether you’re a seasoned swimmer, or just curious about what cold water therapy can do for you, we’re here to help you get ready to take the plunge and learn about the benefits of cold water swimming. 

If you’re looking for a cold water swimming venue near you, look no further than our lovely Divers Cove! Located in the heart of Godstone, Surrey, we’re open all year round for swims and sauna sessions - so we’re the ideal place to try cold water exposure safely. 

How can I increase my tolerance to cold water?

Are you ready to take on the challenge of cold water swimming? If you want to increase your tolerance to chilly waters, there's a simple yet effective way to do it. 

We recommend that those new to open water swimming start with us during the warmer months of summer. Being located around one hour away from central London, we see many swimmers join us for summertime escapes from the city - but if you’re looking to pursue wild swimming as a hobby year-round, it’s important to keep swimming as the water temperatures cool. 

When you start swimming in summer, the water temperatures will be more forgiving, 

allowing your body to slowly acclimate to cold water exposure. As you continue swimming through the autumn season, you'll notice the water gradually getting cooler. This gradual decrease in temperature will help build up your tolerance and prepare you for the ultimate test: winter swimming.

To make your transition into colder waters smoother, invest in or rent a good-quality wetsuit designed specifically for cold water swimming. These wetsuits are made with insulating materials that trap a thin layer of water between your skin and the suit. This layer acts as a barrier against the cold, keeping you warmer for longer. Not only will a wetsuit provide you with added warmth, but it will also enhance your buoyancy, making it easier to float and swim efficiently. 

As you progress through the seasons, you'll find that your body becomes better equipped to handle the cold water. Your blood vessels will constrict less, allowing for improved circulation and a reduced risk of hypothermia. Additionally, your body's natural response to cold water, such as increased calorie burn and improved immune function, will become more efficient.

What is cold water therapy?

Wondering why more and more people are trying cold water swimming? The answer: cold water therapy! This is because, aside from being a fantastic workout, the act of being in cold water itself has a number of mental and physical health benefits. 

What are the benefits of cold water swimming?

From the Wim Hof Method to the Finnish tradition of sauna and ice baths, the benefits of cold water exposure are numerous and well-documented - which is why so many people are keen to try it!

Firstly, cold water swimming can help to boost the immune system by increasing the production of white blood cells. This leads to a stronger defence against infections and illnesses. Secondly, swimming in cold water improves circulation as the body works harder to keep warm, which in turn promotes better cardiovascular health. Additionally, it can help to reduce inflammation and alleviate muscle soreness, making it a popular choice among athletes for recovery. 

For those seeking mental health benefits from cold water therapy, wild swimming has been shown to reduce stress, boost endorphins and provide a natural mood booster that studies have shown can help those suffering from issues such as anxiety and depression. 

Overall, cold water therapy through swimming offers a refreshing and invigorating way to improve overall health and well-being, all whilst enjoying a full-body workout!

What is the best way to adapt to cold water?

Alongside starting in summer and continuing throughout autumn and winter, another way to adapt to cold water is by incorporating regular wild swims as part of your fitness routine. 

First and foremost, it’s important to find a safe swimming venue near you - ideally one that is open year-round so you have easy access to the water and can practise regularly. Once you’ve found a suitable venue, start by gradually exposing yourself to colder water temperatures. Begin with shorter swims and slowly increase your time in the water as your body adjusts. 

How can I swim safely in cold water?

To practise safe open water swimming, there are a few things to keep in mind. As you know, having a good winter swimming wetsuit is key. This will help to keep your body warm and protect you from the cold temperatures. 

Additionally, it's important to choose a venue that is equipped to handle cold water and wild swimming. If you’re based in Surrey, London or the surrounding areas, our Divers Cove is a great option as we have open water-trained lifeguards on site for every swim who can provide assistance if necessary. 

Lastly, never wild swim alone. Having a buddy, or swimming at a venue with lifeguards (or ideally both!) is essential as they can keep an eye on you and offer help if necessary. 

What other equipment do I need for cold water swimming?

Whilst you may think that a winter swimming wetsuit alone will suffice, there are actually a number of other pieces of equipment that we’d strongly recommend for cold water swimming. 

One of these is a neoprene-coloured swim hat, which not only keeps your head warm but also makes you easier to spot in case of emergency. Another important item is a pair of decent earplugs, as cold water can sometimes cause discomfort in the ears. 

To keep your extremities warm, invest in winter swimming neoprene gloves and socks. These will not only protect your hands and feet from the cold but also provide extra grip in the water. And when it comes to changing after your swim, a changing robe is a game-changer. It provides privacy and warmth while you get out of your wet gear. 

Lastly, a tow float is essential for safety. It not only makes you more visible to other swimmers and boats but also provides buoyancy in case you need to rest during your swim. 

How can I warm up after cold water swimming? 

Alongside your essentials in the water, you’ll also need to pack cosy clothes for getting warm and dry after your swim - think long-sleeved tops and trousers, jumpers, a warm coat, socks and gloves. We also offer a range of tasty hot drinks for our swimmers to enjoy post-swim. 

If you’re looking to add an element of relaxation to your visit, then why not treat yourself to a session in one of our lakeside wooden sauna pods? These are ideal for warming up and chilling out after a long week.

Where can I try cold water swimming?

Searching for a wild swimming venue near you? At Divers Cove, we’re proud to offer open water swimming sessions year-round for our Gold and Silver members, so why not treat yourself to a membership today?

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