Renewed energy from a winter dip

En smuk vinterdag på stranden

How did you get started with winter swimming?

“I love swimming and have always liked swimming at the ‘extremes’, taking the year’s first dip in the sea around Easter, and the last one in the autumn. Without making much of it, my father and I have always had this little competition going between us as to who goes in first and last. One year, I kept pushing it and suddenly it was November. I was almost a winter swimmer then, so why not go all the way?”

How do you go about winter swimming and do you have any tips?

I mainly swim in a place where I walk out from the beach. There is no bathing jetty or sauna to help to make it a little easier as you don’t have to walk out into the cold water. And the switch between hot and cold is also nice. But when I talk about winter swimming, it usually takes place without a bathing jetty.

Isolde og Andrea vinterbader

Tips from Andrea

1. Take care of your feet: It’s a good idea to have a towel and something warm for your feet that doesn’t matter if it gets wet. It’s really cold standing on the ground, and when you walk out into the water, it may take a little while to reach a point where it’s deep enough to throw yourself in. It can be hard on the feet, as they feel the cold in a way that hurts. So having something to stand on when you come up out of the water again will be much appreciated. I use a towel or a blanket, but a little wet shoe would also do the trick.

2. A woolly hat and a bare bottom: I often winter swim with my daughter Isolde, and I don’t think she should get her head under the water as it’s cold for the skull. Most of our body heat is lost through the head. So we often wear a woolly hat when we swim, which keeps our heads warm, and it doesn’t matter if it gets a little wet. We are naked everywhere else, though! It’s the best way.

3. Keep breathing calmly: It’s not natural to go in the water when it’s so cold. It’s something you have to conquer each and every time you do it. When you swim in cold water, the body cools extremely fast, sending the body’s defence system into overdrive. Blood vessels constrict, and endorphins and adrenaline pump around the body. So it’s easy to get yourself all worked up, go completely stiff, hold your breath or hyperventilate reflexively. Isolde has got really good at winter swimming, and she focuses on breathing calmly. Focusing on this enables you to maintain control and relax more, avoiding hyperventilation. Being able to relax makes a huge difference.

4. Lay out your clothes in an orderly fashion: When you come out of the cold water, the blood vessels dilate again and the blood courses through your veins. This is when you will feel a sense of happiness and warmth. You need to get dressed again fairly quickly, and there’s nothing worse than having to rummage around for your underwear and turn tops and socks the right way round. So put all your clothes in an orderly pile to ensure that you can easily and elegantly jump right back into them. A hot cup of tea or soup to warm your fingers, which can be hard to bring back to life, is wonderful at this point.

5. One last but important tip is NEVER to winter swim alone.

So all that’s left to do now is to head for the beach and out into the lovely, bracing sea.

- Andrea Elisabeth Rudolph

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