It’s not easy to dip your toe into Irish waters in the winter, let alone your whole body, so why do the swimmers do it?
The obligatory Christmas Day swim is behind us, but for many it was already part of their regular Saturday routine. Amidst lockdowns, many of us couldn’t go to the local pool and took to the ocean instead. In the Irish winter, that’s no small (or warm) feat. Here’s what motivates seasoned swimmers to dive in, and some of the benefits they reap in the process.
Ellen Taylor is based in Dublin, and she and her mother brave the ocean because “it’s exhilarating and it’s supposedly healthy.” And they’re not wrong. Cold water swimming can boost your immune system, improve circulation, and reduce stress. Taylor says,”it just makes you feel alive and alway feel great afterwards especially when you get your cosy socks on after. ”
While the cold can indeed give your body a boost, it’s important to swim safely, especially in the winter. Swim Ireland are an excellent resource for anyone looking to get involved, or to learn more. Their tips for open water safety include:
- Bringing someone with you in case you get into difficulty.
- Understanding the weather and currents and the effect it will have on the sea.
- Getting in slowly to avoid cold water shock.
- Knowing the signs of hypothermia, such as shivering and loss of dexterity in hands.
Ensuring you’re swimming safely means you can relax and enjoy the rush of endorphins.
It’s not just the Irish sea that has swimmers flocking to its shores, either. Tiana Jo Bender lives in the US, and regularly takes a dip to reap the health benefits. Her tips for getting in involve recruiting some brave souls. “Bring friends! We all count down from 3 and run into the ocean together. The rule is “don’t stop”. If you’re the one to chicken out or you go slower than the others, you make the process more painful for yourself.” When she can’t find an army of sea swimmers to brave the ocean with her, she goes alone. But warming up first means getting in is easier and safer. “If I’m on my own, I have to warm up my body first in order to motivate myself to get it. A quick run, a few planks, any sort of movement really helps.”
In the north, Hannah Gibson loves to swim at “Brompton Pier in Bangor and in the North Coast, especially Down Hill beach. Donegal is also amazing!” For her, being in the water is where she feels alive. “It feels like being so present and so whole.” The first dip is the hardest, and it never gets easier, but Hannah says “we too often become acclimatised to life’s discomforts.”
If you’re making sea swims part of your 2022 plan, make sure you do it safely, and somewhere you’re familiar with. Grab your swimming togs (maybe even a wetsuit!) and a flask of tea for afterwards. And don’t forget the all important post-swim pic, because if you got yourself into the water, the world deserves to know.
Main image by Anastasia Taioglou via Unsplash