An Autumn morning dip in Ullswater and why cold water swimming is good for you

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Let me guess, you probably think that both myself and Amy are a little nuts to be swimming in a lake, in England, in October! I never imagined how much I would love wild swimming, until we decided to take part in the Great North Swim earlier this year. I'd say it's by far one of the most stress relieving, exhilarating things I have ever done. Plus, there are so many other health benefits to swimming in cold water that I bet you never even realised.

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What you will need:

If you are considering your first open/water wild swim, then here are the things that I wear and would recommend from experience:

A swimming costume, either to go under your wet suit or just a swimming costume if you can brave the cold! I haven't managed to brave it just yet and I don't think I'll manage until next Summer now but it's definitely on the agenda.

A wet suit. I'd say that this 'wardrobe' item was by far my favourite purchase this year. I bought it from Sainsbury's for £70.00 (you can view their current Sola wetsuit here) and I'm confident it will last me a very long time. What a wet suit does, is it takes water in and although cold at first, your body heats up that layer of water trapped between you and the wetsuit, keeping you warm. The wetsuit will also provide some buoyancy too, allowing you to stay afloat on your back comfortably.

If you're lucky enough to be able to enter the water from soft sand banks, then this doesn't apply. Although I'd say for the majority of you reading, you'll probably have to enter the water from pebbled shores, so I'd definitely recommend getting a pair of shoes designed for the water. You might think that it doesn't look too uncomfortable but it's makes life super hard getting in and out of the water when you haven't got anything protecting your feet. Plus, I've noticed a lot of broken glass which you don't really want to cut your feet on. I do actually have a pair from Santorini last Summer which I'm going to get out ready for our next dip.

A friend. If you have someone crazy enough to come with you (thankfully I do!) or even if it's someone to sit by the lake to watch you and hold your towel. I'm trying to convince Josh to join me sometime but he's taking a bit of convincing...

A towel, a flask of your favourite hot drink and some layers to pop on after getting out of the water. These will get you warm and dry again after a chilly swim so always remember to take enough layers and a towel. If you are swimming in Autumn/Winter time, then I'd even recommend looking in to getting a swimming hat to keep your hair dry, some gloves and even some neoprene socks and gloves.

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The benefits of wild swimming

Contrary to belief that cold water and cold weather brings on colds/flus, it actually does the opposite and helps build up your immune system. Although I've only been wild swimming a handful of times this year, I am (touch wood) yet to be ill from flu or cold, which is apparently very common for many people who are wild/open water swimmers. So, are you someone who gets ill easily? Then you know the answer... time to get your wetsuit on and go for a swim!

A lot of research has been conducted in to the benefits of cold water swimming and one of them which stood out for me was the link between cold water and stress reduction. Saying this, even if you aren't a cold water swimmer, try splashing your face in the morning with ice cold water and note down how it makes you feel. You may not want to after getting out of bed, especially on a cold winter morning but I do it first thing every single morning and it is honestly, one of the best things to make me feel alive and instantly makes me feel calm and relaxed, in a weird kind of way.

The main reason for taking up wild swimming was the instant high I get from entering the water and the feeling afterwards too. Apparently, endorphins are released to help us deal with the pain (of cold water) and endorphins are what give you that 'feel good' feeling. It's the same with exercise. Don't you feel amazing after pushing yourself at the gym or a on run?

Not only is it an instant high for me but it also brings me back to reality and helps me understand that life isn't about moving fast, making money and doing all the things we think we have to do but just being relaxed and enjoying what we have. It's lying there, in the cold water, listening to the silence that really does something so magical to my brain and my body. I feel like I'm talking absolute nonsense but it's true. If only I had somewhere a little closer, I would do it every single morning.

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Now, are you ready for your first wild swim?