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Digital Subscriptions > Outdoor Swimmer > Apr/May 2016 > The Big Chill

The Big Chill

Jonathan Cowie travelled nearly 300 miles to swim 240 metres in Windermere at the Big Chill Swim


There is a frog in the Artic Circle that freezes solid while hibernating, only to thaw out in spring. The tiny wood frog floods itself with glucose before turning into an amphibian ice cube for the winter. It is a trick that most cold water swimmers would like to be able to pull off, although I am not sure how much cake would need to be eaten to achieve cryopreservation. However, if there are two things cold water swimmers like it is cake and a challenge.

Swimmers come from all over the UK (and the world) for the challenge of competing at the Big Chill Swim. Four years ago a winter swimming gala in Windermere might have seemed a bit of a risky proposition. But such is the burgeoning popularity of cold water swimming, more than 1,000 participants signed up to the fourth incarnation of the event in February. And like the little wood frog, they were willing to put themselves through some pretty challenging conditions.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

As spring finally arrives, it is time to start planning your summer swims. We have features on wild swimming in Spain and Florida and full event listings for races in the UK and around the world. Plus, we report from Russia and the UK on the final flurry of the season’s cold water swimming competitions. In this issue’s performance zone, as well as all the usual training and nutrition advice, we teach you how to master easy butterfly. This issue we celebrate a true pioneer of the open water: Mercedes Gleitze, the first British woman to swim the English Channel, was an independent working class woman who promoted open water swimming to a new audience.