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WILD SWIMMING GUIDE

Daniel Start, author of Wild Swimming, shares his tips for taking the plunge

What is wild swimming and why do it?

‘Wild Swimming’ is the ancient art of swimming in natural waters such as rivers, lakes and waterfalls, as well as the sea – the sort of places our great grandparents learnt to swim in and the only places before swimming pools were invented in Victorian times. Today there is something slightly naughty, a little bit adventurous and wonderfully invigorating about wild swimming. Getting in, and out, is as much a part of the ritual as the swim itself. Some like to tiptoe, but I like to jump (if I have checked the depth first) and it’s the sheer fun of a day spent by the river that makes wild swimming a perfect escape.

From Celtic enchanted pools to early Christian river baptisms, through to Wordsworth and Coleridge frolicking in Lake District waterfalls, there has always been a strong tradition of wild water swimming in Britain. The health and psychological benefits of dipping in natural waters have long been known – and our many spa towns are a testament to this.

Florence Nightingale and Charles Dickens both claimed to have been cured by traditional forms of ‘hydrotherapy’. First, a one-off dunk, particularly in cold water, creates intense vasodilation, pumping out muscle lactates, and bringing fresh blood to the extremities. The Turks and Romans understood this with their hot-cold plunge pools, and so does Paula Radcliffe, who always took a cold shower before a race. Second, after regular swimming, a process known as cold adaptation kicks in. Not only does this reduce your body’s sensation of coldness (making even the coldest water quite pleasant), it is clinically proven to boost mode, libido and the immune system – as shown in NASA experiments from the 1980s and more recent studies of year round swimmers imunnity from colds and flu. Finally, a cold dip also provides a psychological kick start.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

Welcome to the first issue of Outdoor Swimmer! We are dedicated to providing inspiration and information for people who swim outdoors – and for people who want to swim outdoors but haven’t yet quite plucked up enough courage to escape the confines of the pool. If you were a reader of H2Open, the former name of Outdoor Swimmer, we hope you will be pleased with the changes we have made. But don’t worry, we haven’t changed radically! We still have all the same great features we had before, but the changes we have made are those that were suggested by you in our reader survey. We will focus more on the social aspects of outdoor swimming and increase our coverage of wild swimming, as well as expanding our training section to include distance-specific plans to help you reach your swimming goals. We are also thrilled to have joined forces with the Outdoor Swimming Society to bring you reviews of all the best kit for outdoor swimmers. This issue we look at goggles, next month we will be reviewing wetsuits. Let us know what you think of the changes, and what you would like to see more (or less) of in Outdoor Swimmer. Enjoy the magazine and happy swimming. Jonathan Cowie Editor
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