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Winter swimming is a fringe sport; rapidly expanding if the clubs Iím involved with are any guide, but still something relatively new. Something with the air of mystery.

As the temperatures fall we all have to find our own way to overcome the biggest hurdleÖthe transition from wrapped up looking at the water to feeling the tingle of the water embrace your body. Basically, getting in the water is everything. If you can get over that line youíre a member of the club.

You can go on to swim a few meters to a mile itís up to you, the only requirement to be accepted into this world are those first few steps.
As the temperatures drop so will the distances; everyone needs to swim the right distance for them.

How long people will stay in depend on many factors:

1.    Body Size
2.    Acclimatisation
3.    Winning the genetic lottery
4.    Health/Fitness
5.    Clothing (gloves/socks/wetsuit)
6.    How far you want to swim

In addition, most swimmers will see fluctuations from week to week. A late breakfast, poor nightís sleep or just generally feeling itís not your week will have an effect and shouldnít be ignored by the wise swimmer.

For me getting in isnít always easy, the early morning alarm, cold air grey clouds can get to you. I could just go home, and maybe I will one day, but not so far. Paddle in, splash the face, googles on, look around, deep breath and go. Iím sure itís different for everyone; loud, quiet, quick slowÖ whatever works.

Iím in the water, Iíve asked the question, will this be a good day? The first few hundred will reveal all, get the breathing right, face used to the water and Iím off. Fail, and it will be a much shorter mainly breaststroke day. A good swim, lovely sunrise, amazing company, it may not always turn out to be a good day, but it nearly always does.

When it comes to the winter, Iím sure Iím one of the lucky ones, someone who has sought out the cold for many years, not short on size and well acclimatized, taking a couple of cold swims most weeks through the winter. So, Iím often one of the last out (especially if slow getting in); a km is achievable in most conditions. Does this make me different though? Should people say heíll be OK heís bombproof, he doesnít feel the cold.

No, weíre all human and below a certain temperature there is no way we can maintain our internal temperature. Cold feet and hands may be noticeable immediately, and to a certain extend we can ignore that pain, but the creeping drop in core temperature we cannot. No one is immune, stay in too long and it will strike, possibly even after leaving the water. Maybe I have longer to wait, but I know the feel of those shivers deep in your body as you fight off the cold for another week and if I stayed in too long there would be a point when the shivers wouldnít come and the cold would win.

That right time to get out always occurs, you just have to be able to spot it. There are signs that could alert those around you that things arenít right, but signs will vary from person to person and may not be visible until late on. We need to keep an eye on our self, donít ignore the early signs. Gradually stay in longer, learn how your body reacts, know how you feel on a good week and identify those small signs that say itís time to get out now.

If itís not you week get out that bit early or donít get in at all, enjoy some cake, after swim chat, recharge and come back to fight the cold again next week.

Flower Pot

AS YOU'RE HERE: The HOWSC website is maintained and run by HOWSC members and relies on voluntary contribtutions.  Do you have something you'd like to share?  Maybe reflections on a recent swim, tales of adventures in far flung places, an account of your watery accomplishments? Photographs, videos, poetry, prose, art and more will all be gratefully received and published on the website for all to admire.  Contact Mark Reed to discuss or submit your contribution.  We look forward to hearing from you.
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