Tonight is the first open water of the season at local venue Cliff Lakes.

Lots of YouCanCoaching swimmers and triathletes will be going for their first dip.  It might be a bit brisk. Around 11-12C. So here are some tips for dealing with the cold.

Don’t hang around outside getting cold before you swim. Stay warm and once you’re dressed get in pretty quickly.

Don’t spend time thinking and worrying about the cold. Embrace it! It lets you know you’re alive!

Before you leave the house, make sure you’ve got lots of warm clothes for afterwards. Hat, scarf, thermal base layers, coats, and clothes that are easy to put on….and of course your dry robe!

Another top tip is to bring a flask/cup with a lid on it, so that its easier for you to drink your tea/coffee afterwards if you have the shivers!

The cold can take your breath away. So if you’re novice or relatively inexperienced take your time acclimatising to the water. At Cliff Lakes you have to get in using the steps, but then you can stand in the shallow part with water up to your waist. Dip your hands in, splash your face, get water on your chest. Bend your knees so water is up to your neck. Focus on your breathing and take your time. But not too much time as you don’t want to get cold.

When you’re ready start swimming. First focus on your breath. You might start off with 20 or so fasts strokes and then take a break. Keep focussing on your breathing, out through your nose, and keeping the effort level low! Stay positive and
calm in the knowledge that you will settle down into your stroke.

If you’re more experienced (or without a wetsuit) then….1, 2, 3 and swim! With a walk in entry, walk up to your belly button, 1, 2, 3 and swim. At Cliff Lakes it’s a ladder, so lower to your knees, then your hips….1, 2, 3 and go. And sprint! Then slow down, find your rhythm and focus on your breathing – out through your nose, in through your mouth.

Just have a short swim – remember it’s meant to be fun and getting too cold doesn’t get you fitter or make you swim any faster. (For Triathletes BTF rules state that when water temperature is only 11C only a 500m swim is allowed).

Once you’ve finished your swim – your priority is to get dressed as quick as possible. If you’re really cold then skip the hot shower and get dry and warm clothes on as soon as possible. I always dress my top half first (often dispensing with underwear) and if it’s really cold I may need a friend to help!

Then enjoy the post swim shivers with a hot drink and something to eat.

Finally remember everyone copes with the cold in different ways, just like some people can run faster than others. So if you know you struggle then wait a few weeks until it’s warmed up – after all it is meant to be fun.

Finally my favourite idea is from local swimming group Swim and Tonic – where lots of people just come for the Tonic! And join in the tea, cake and socialising.

If you swim tonight – let me know how you get on.  And if you’re one of a hardy breed that loves the cold water then do get in touch to share your best tips for dealing with it.