The temperatures are starting to drop. As the nights start to grow longer, the sun starts to lower on the horizon and that unmistakable nip of autumn begins, so begins the gradual fall towards winter. Extra layers, snuggly jumpers, gravy dinners, open fires, hot chocolate. It’s all coming. So is the zing of a cold swim.
Don’t get me wrong the summer of 2018 has been beautiful, warm water for months on end. Long swims, late swims, early swims and a swimsuit tan I thought I’d left behind in childhood. It’s been fabulous but that lovely warm water is different. It brings pleasure in a different way to cold water. Warm water’s relaxing. On a hot summers day going for a dip in 20C water is still refreshing and a welcome relief but it doesn’t come with a zing.
The zing of the cooler water makes my skin tingle, sends my heart-rate jumping, makes me smile, grin, whoop. It makes me feel alive like nothing else.
As the temperatures continue to drop from now until March the Short One and I will go through a gradual cooling process, slowly acclimatising to the cold water. We’ll reduce our swim time as the temperatures drop below a safe level to swim any distance. Swimming will progressively change from a fitness activity to a moment of buzz, adrenaline and fulfilment. More about the process and mental well-being than time spent in the water.
I’m not saying the whole process is pleasurable, there’s pain to deal with too. I get pain in my wrists, hands and toes as my blood vessels constrict. When I put my head in, the cold makes my brain hurt, first at my temples, then across my forehead. When it’s really cold my teeth ache. I’ve learnt that those pains are my own internal thermometer, I can take a good guess at the water temperature based on how soon or how bad the pain is. I think that little bit of pain intensifies that feeling of being alive too though.
We’re not quite at pain and numbness yet but on our last few swims the zing has definitely been back and I’m loving it. The Short One and I can’t wait for winter adventures. The craziness of cold water, the frisson of danger, the edge of hypothermia. Hot water bottles, numb body parts, shivering, soup in the shower. All something to look forward to where once we would have moaned that it was getting cold.
We learnt an awful lot last winter, how to deal with the cold safely (yes, that is possible), about our physical and mental limits and about each other. Top of that list though was the Zing. The Zing that can clear an otherwise miserable, stressed, dark, winter, rainy day head.
So, hello Zing, I’m pleased to meet you again, let’s go have some fun.
p.s. If you’re planning on following suit please be aware cold water swimming can be a very dangerous activity. Never take water for granted, it is always potentially dangerous, but even more so when it’s very cold. If you want to read up a bit more have a look here.