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Winter swimming; a traditional wellness practice mastered over many years by our founder Andrea Elisabeth Rudolph.
In this feature, Andrea talks about the passion for cold waves and offers you her personal guide to embracing the “polar-bear plunge” with 5 easy steps.
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“Preparation is the first key step to enjoyable winter swimming. Warm clothes are a must. Toasty socks and perhaps a thermal ski pants and top set for when you come out of the water. The main thing is to have clothing you can slip in and out of easily. After your dip, your body will be cold and wet, and it’s a hassle to have to “fumble” with complicated clothes. Another thing I recommend to anyone interested in getting into winter swimming is to have something to stand on. If you take the plunge into a lake from a pier or wade into the sea from the shore, the cold temperature underfoot will chill you to the bone before you’ve even been in the water. A last prepping tip is to have a hot drink ready for when you are out of the water and dressed again. As you gaze out over the water that has just revitalized your body, a steaming hot mug of tea will give you that ultimate sense of wellbeing.”
“Ideally, visit a spot that’s popular with winter swimmers. Established winter swimming locations typically have a platform at the end of the ladder so you can stand on the bottom in the cold water. This will be reassuring the first few times. I often like to go in the sea from the shore, which is also a great way of getting that cold dip because you can stay in fairly shallow water without having to wade out so far.”
“It’s generally a good idea to go swimming with other people. This makes your dip safer and more fun too. Bring a friend or loved one, leaving it up to them if they want to join you in the water."
“Take it easy and go slow as you immerse yourself in the water. Deep breathing and steady movements. Some winter swimmers find that they gasp or that their breathing rate increases when they enter the cold water – this is perfectly normal. The main thing is to concentrate on deep and steady breathing. It may take a while to gain control of your breathing, but I promise that practice makes perfect. Don’t stay in the water for long, and avoid getting your hair wet in very cold weather. I love keeping my knit beanie on during my cold dip, just to retain some heat. Come out of the water gradually, and best of all: feel the effect! All the blood in your body is racing around to reach every part of your system, which is working hard to heat you up again. Your skin is tingling and buzzing with vitality and fresh energy. Pat yourself dry with a towel as soon as you come out to avoid being cooled down even more by the cold water on your skin. Now get dressed again – and feel the benefits some more.”
“As I mentioned in Step 4, practice makes perfect. The same goes for your winter swimming routine. The more you make a habit of winter swimming, the sooner you’ll master it. And the more enjoyable it will be too. For many first-timers, that sweet shock of icy cold sea or lake water may not be all pleasure, but with practice, you’ll be glowing on the inside as well as on the outside. I wish you every pleasure and success with your healthy new habit.”
PS: Try winter swimming throughout the cold months of the year. As you can imagine, it’s easier to work up to the cold by starting in early fall rather than in the coldest winter months, but personally, I believe you can start whenever you like. You just have to set your mind on it.”