1. You’ll build mental fortitude
The reasons behind this are many, as are the benefits. Top of the list, though, is the mental clarity afforded by shocking the system into action. You needn’t fill your tub with ice cubes, mind – try turning your shower to the coldest setting for 30 seconds each morning. By the end of the week you’ll be able to stand it, and diving into a freezing outdoor pool, lake or pond will be a doddle.
2. You’ll supercharge your metabolism
The coldest swim in the world takes place in Murmansk, Russia.
When the pool is lined with ice… it’s cold.There are two types of fat in your body: brown and white. These days, humans mostly stockpile the white variety, but back in our ‘hunter/gatherer’ days, the balance was much more even. Studies have shown that the unique brown fat can be activated by cold water. Not only will brown fat keep you warm, but as its job is to raise body temperature, it burns through calories at a high rate and will help you shed excess weight, too. What better reason to get some Ice Age-style training in at your local outdoor facilities?
3. You’ll break the boredom cycle
Turning up to a new outdoor swimming spot is much more stimulating than simply sliding into the local indoor pool for another monotonous 60 laps. By searching for new and unexplored places, you’ll add a sense of adventure and reward to your workout that might otherwise be lacking.
4. You’ll gain mental calmness
Camilla Pedersen performs in Copenhagen, Denmark on August 19th, 2013
Find peace and serenity close by – find a new spot to swim
Helping you achieve a bit of serenity amidst chaotic cities and towns, taking a dip in the sea, or a local pond or lake (provided it’s safe to do so) offers a welcome escape from swimming lengths in your local gym. With time enjoying nature proven to reduce stress levels and reduce your risk of developing depression and mental illness, taking your workout outside is the best way to be kind to both body and mind.
5. You’ll get fitter
Ross Edgley swimming in open water in the UK.
Swimming in open water is a good workout
Much like training in an altitude chamber, pushing yourself to perform in harsh conditions will force your body to adapt quickly. The cold will make breathing more difficult, forcing you to optimise what little oxygen you can take in, making you more adept at adapting to stressful conditions. Going back into the local indoor pool will be a piece of cake in comparison.
6. You’ll train smarter
A competitor performs at Red Bull Neptune Steps in Glasgow, UK on March 28th 2015
Cold water immersions aid recovery
According to the British Triathlon Federation, a “natural response to immersion in cold water can be the constriction of your arteries.” Just like using an ice pack, this can help prevent bruising, swelling and waste tissue build-up following an injury or sprain. Cold water training as part of triathlon training can even help reduce soreness, too. According to a study published by the Cochrane Library, 360 people who immersed themselves in cold water after cycling or running, found the effect to be reducing the onset of delayed muscle soreness.
7. Boost your immune system
A swimmer takes to the cold water at the Swedish Winter Swimming Championships.Pretend it’s a hot bath
By exposing yourself to nature and the cold, you’ll naturally encounter more germs. Provided you’ve had your flu jabs and quickly get warm afterwards, this is no bad thing. According to research published in the journal Free Radical Biology and Medicine, regular cold water immersion helps boost your body’s levels of the antioxidant glutathione, which in turn helps regulate the process of all other antioxidants in the body, helping to reduce your risk of heart disease and cancer.
8. Men increase their libido
And not just because of the swimsuits (honestly, invest in a wetsuit, come on). According to studies carried out by the UK’s Thrombosis Research Institute, cold water exposure increases testosterone production, which in turn boosts libido in men. And while it doesn’t work quite the same way in women, the shock of the cold is guaranteed to boost energy levels and release endorphins, leaving you feeling pretty good regardless.
9. You’ll feel less pain
You’ll feel energised after a cold water swim
And not because you’re too cold to feel anything. According to Rude Health’s Outdoor Swimming Society, swimming in cold water increases blood flow throughout the body, which in turn helps improve circulation, allowing inflamed areas to heal more quickly, thereby reducing pain. The same principle can be applied by alternatively bathing an injured area in hot and cold water, the difference is, not only is this method more fun, you’ll hopefully avoid injury in the first place altogether.
10. You’ll become a better swimmer
Similarly to how running on outdoor trails burns more calories and forces your body to adapt in a more natural way than pounding away on the treadmill, taking your swim to the wilds forces your body to work harder. Not only will you be burning calories to keep warm, tides, wind and obstacles naturally make it a harder session. So if you want to level up, go wild.