Mind over Matter

If you’re thinking about dipping your toes in this cold water malarkey that’s taken hold of the country and even tested a bunch of celebrities, then here’s a few icy facts that may make your rethink, that dipping into water is in fact the opposite of crazy.

My experience of cold-water swimming, like others, started as soon as lockdown kicked in – when changes to my lifestyle and testing situations, found me subconsciously looking for a release, and that was swimming.

I’ve always loved swimming though never swam regularly or used it as a form of mental therapy, or even had a pool in my garden. I live close to the beach and always swam in a wetsuit; as the water temperature barely gets above 18 °C in the summer, and I’m in my comfort zone. I figured I would more likely get into the water if I could train at home; so instead of cold shower training I bought a large paddling pool.  From Spring 2020 I began a daily routine of a 6am before work swim and a 6pm after work swim.

It wasn’t easy, relaxing, or pleasurable to begin with and my mind and brain had to do a lot of work to get me under, especially as it was so shallow. I think I must have talked and talked myself into it; because I was soon not thinking about it, but just doing it. I think that’s one of the main things I've discovered - that your mind is more powerful than your body, and that positively affirming things can help rewire your mind.

There’s obviously a lot of science behind it, but these are the things I’ve noticed:

  • That sensations travel through my body in cold water the moment I get in. I don’t shout but tend to be conscious of my breaths and then just switch my mind off and think about the pleasure of water.
  • I know that my skin is stimulated by the temperature and is firing signals to my brain - the fight-flight moment when your brain receives a signal to say you’re under attack – which is why I use the cortisol and adrenaline it produces, to deep breath from my stomach through my diaphragm.
  • The sense of euphoria happens for me after about 3-5 stokes, and after a couple of times my head goes under.
  • Being in the water seems to clear my mind and as it flushes over me, and for those moments I am at peace with everything.
  • When I get out, I am buzzing outside and inside, and feel so good.
  • It’s made me realise that doing things out of my comfort zone is good for me.

Everyone’s experience is slightly different, though I can say for me cold water swimming has increased self-belief, ability to handle challenging situations, and a sense of calm and energy at the same time. I know others have found cold water swimming communities and water as a therapy, and a boost to their lives.  My break-through moment, was literally that, breaking the ice and swimming under it; and it was probably then that I remembered, that you can do anything you want to really, once you put your mind to it and commit to the possibility.