A couple of friends who booked with us over the summer introduced me to the concept of wild swimming.
The first was a marathon runner who did not seem to know how to relax and went for a gruelling run every morning. One day he discovered the swimming lake at Saint Saud and was able to add exhausting outdoor swims to his routine. Each to his own. His family loved the lake too, however, and were able to sunbathe and paddle from the artificial sandy beach while Dad ploughed up and down in the distance.
The second friend works for the NHS, and she also mentioned wild swimming as a “thing”. There is even a wild swimming community in the UK.
Why is wild swimming so good?
Apparently, wild swimming has lots of benefits for your health, mental health and wellbeing, including:
- Less muscle soreness – improves recovery.
- Reduces body pain and inflammation.
- Boost your immune system.
- Improved circulation.
- Boost your brain power.
- Potential weight loss (though not guaranteed) through improved metabolism.
- It boosts dopamine levels – immersing the body in cold water boosts dopamine levels and increases the release of endorphins.
- Ecotherapy – being outdoors and connecting with nature has a proven, positive impact on mental wellbeing.
Should I shower after wild swimming?
Cold water swimmers have apparently been known to faint in hot showers. It’s been said that you should wait until you’ve warmed up again before showering. And, you shouldn’t attempt to drive or ride a bike until your core temperature has recovered.
More of a mild swimmer than a wild swimmer
Now I used to swim for the county when I was a teenager and, aged 10-16, spent most evenings staring at the bottom of a chlorinated pool. I’ve never really warmed to the outdoor variety (pardon the wild swimming pun!) with its lack of heated water, lane ropes, hot showers and ability to see the bottom. The last time I swam in the North Sea, its freezing filthy brown waves convinced me that the Mediterranean would be the most northerly saltwater body I would swim in future. But this summer really changed my opinion on that.
We are blessed in Haute Vienne with an abundance of lakes, many of which are run as swimming lakes for the public. They tend to follow the same format: lots of free parking under shady trees, lifeguards on duty, artificial sandy beaches, a circular walk around the perimeter of the lake and refreshment outlets. They are just delightful. Not truly “wild swimming” as such, but outdoors nonetheless. The edges have been engineered so as to provide a shallow area for safe swimming and some, like our local Saint Saud and St Estephe lakes, have a very shallow roped off area for paddling.
I spent many happy days at these lakes this summer. My kids even managed to get me to go out of my depth a few times. I can’t swim without goggles, though; tumble turns are hard with no wall to push off from. Perhaps I’m more of a mild swimmer than a wild swimmer.