Oh dear, 2020, what a ride so far! I haven’t been active here because of other priorities last year and not much has happened to write about this year. Except that we’ve travelled to Sicily and a few other spots in Italy by train in February right before all this craziness started (phew); and that I’ve been discovering Brandenburg one day-trip at a time during the past months (I have another blog post planned on this).
Today, as a little comeback post and because there’re more restrictions looming again here in Berlin due to the second wave of Covid-19, I’d like to share my love for cold water swimming and its benefits. I hope to inspire you to try it as well and maybe taking it up as your new pastime to get your mind off for a bit.
Cold water swimming has seen a revival in the public coverage during the past years, especially under this name in the UK as they also have lots of lidos open all year round. Essentially, it means that you go swimming in lakes, streams, waterfalls or the sea not only during hot summer months and in balmy water temperatures but also throughout the rest of the year, notably in winter and spring when water temperatures are usually the lowest. I’m not there yet but I try to swim regularly between March and October, as I did for example yesterday in Berlin-Grünau at one of my favourite places (spot the beaver marks on the second picture).
Although most of my friends call me crazy, I enjoy overcoming the reluctance to take the first step into the cold water and then immersive myself completely. It makes my blood and endorphins rush and always gives me a big smile when I come out again – yes, I did it! It brings me a lot of physical and psychological benefits, especially calming my mind around current worries and stress. Getting into the cold water also gives me a big confidence boost. My advice: Don’t wet your hair to keep the body heat and don’t think about the temperature too much, just step into the water (easier said than done, I know). There are no extensive studies about the effects of cold water swimming, yet, but I’m convinced that it has major health and mental health benefits, e.g. improvement of your immune system and stress reduction. More and more articles get published on it, e.g. here on the Guardian or from iprshealth.
I’ve never minded swimming in cold(er) water as I’ve spend many childhood summers with my family at the German Baltic Sea and the water usually was around 16-18°C. Over the years and especially during my time in Stuttgart, I lost it out of sight as there were not many lakes to swim in. Since I’ve moved to Berlin though, I’ve been more than happy to get back into this habit again. One experience and one book have been pivotal for me on this journey: In the summer of 2017, I did a wonderful tour of the North Coast 500 in Scotland and locals went swimming there on those wonderful beaches. Eventually, I had to try it myself and went swimming twice, once on the stunning Sandwood Bay Beach in the Northwest and the second time on my last day in Portmahomack a bit further North of Inverness. It was very cold and sublime, I loved it so much!
Shortly after that, someone recommended „Turning“ by Jessica J. Lee to me. She writes about swimming in 52 lakes during her first year in Berlin, one on each weekend throughout the whole year. It’s a fantastic book with so many valuable life lessons and it also inspired me to go swimming in a few of those mentioned lakes, discovering some of my new favourites spots in the area around Berlin. Well worth a read!
So, if you feel blue and/or restless in those challenging times or you just want to try something new, I can highly recommend that you find yourself a nice lake near you (or a still open swimming pool) to get started. Now is the right time to extend the swimming period a few more weeks or months! Don’t overdo it the first couple of times, get used to the cold water step by step and only stay in the water as long as you feel comfortable (it might be just 1-2 minutes in winter). The Outdoor Swimming Society has a few valuable tips on this: Acclimatise, swim where you feel safe, wear the right kit, e.g. a swimming hat, don’t dive in, know your limits (especially during the winter months) and warm up directly but slowly when you come out of the water.
Do you have favourite swimming spots of your own where you want to try cold water swimming? I would love to hear about your experience. Happy cold water swimming!