Cold water swimming is fast emerging on the medical radar as the “superfood” of physical activities – lowering blood pressure, boosting immunity, circulation and libido, and even mediating stress and depression.
Throughout the summer months you’ll see us Swim-Run-Swim-Run our way round the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Series… but what now that winter is well under way?
We asked some cold water lovers of the Swimrun World Series why and how they do it when the temperature plummets.
Co-founder of Swimrun and Director of the ÖTILLÖ Swimrun World Series
“As winter draws in, everything in nature is beginning to close. The birds have migrated – the woods are quiet. In recent years, I’ve begun swimming earlier in the morning, and later into the year, to avoid the crowds.
“In November, I swam to the Island of Utö in the Stockholm Archipelago, home of the original bet that sparked the idea for ÖTILLÖ. We called to action via Facebook for fellow swimmers, and two chefs from the local hotel showed up – both used to cold water.
“It was a real autumn day, single digit degrees and a fair North Westerly wind. Together we swam the four north islands, just warm enough to laugh together, clearing our minds with the cold, a sauna and dinner waiting on the other end.
“Our adventures are limited by our minds and the comfort of our homes. We need to get out and feel nature, to feel small and to expand our dimensions. To be alive!”
Official VIVOBAREFOOT athlete and Swimrun World Champion, Maja swims in some of the coldest waters around Sweden.
“For me, it’s the moment before you throw yourself into the water. The nanosecond when there’s no going back and you have to mentally prepare for the cold to hit. Immediately, you feel your heart pound in your ears and you innately want to panic.
“I focus on long, smooth exhalations, breathing right to the belly to get plenty of oxygen – ready to swim forward with full power.”
VIVO sponsored Swimrun Athlete
“Living in Stockholm, the surrounding sea and lakes don’t rise above 10°C before May. I like to warm up in nature before a swim, enjoying a jog in beautiful surroundings.
“If you’re trying cold swimming for the first time, be sure to remain close to the edge. You can easily seize up – so it’s best to have an easy exit.
“My number one tip to secure your wetsuit well – make sure it’s snug at the neck!
“A neoprene cap can make a huge difference, protecting the forehead and the tops of your ears, plus neoprene socks will keep your feet toasty. Sometimes, you need only these two pieces of kit.
“In the first minute, you want to make small, quick strokes. Then slow as you calm and embrace the cold. I love to swim without a wetsuit, it lets me push my system harder, training both my body and my mind.”
Article first published in Swimrun Life Magazine Issue #6 (March 2018)