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Wild Swimming Safety Advice

Gracie Watkins
Swimming is an excellent form of cardiovascular exercise, effectively lowering blood pressure, strengthening the immune system and enhancing cognitive health. If you’re already a regular at your local swimming pool, perhaps it’s time to try something a little different. 
Wild swimming is the practice of swimming in natural bodies of water such as lakes, rivers, and oceans. Invigorating, refreshing and soothing, wild swimming strengthens your connection with nature while offering numerous physical and mental benefits. In fact, evidence suggests that wild swimming can reduce symptoms associated with inflammatory or long-term chronic pain conditions.
For all its benefits, all wild swimming participants should exercise extreme caution, as natural bodies of water have the potential to be highly dangerous. 

Be A Strong Swimmer

It may sound obvious, but you should be a strong, confident swimmer before setting foot in natural bodies of water. Unlike swimming in a controlled environment like a swimming pool, wild swimming involves additional risks, such as strong currents and tides. Moreover, the absence of a lifeguard leaves you considerably more exposed and vulnerable to potential dangers. As such, it is advisable to practise swimming in the safety of a public pool until you are comfortable and confident enough with your abilities. 

Don’t Swim Alone

Wild swimmers are repeatedly advised never to swim alone. Not only is there safety in numbers, but swimming as part of a group or team can make the whole experience more enjoyable. However, if you choose to attempt a solitary wild swimming adventure, it is crucial to take precautions. Before you set off, inform a trusted individual, such as a partner or close friend, where and when you plan to swim and provide an estimated time of return. 

Research Your Spot

It is important to research potential swimming spots thoroughly before diving in. Start by getting recommendations from experienced wild swimmers in your local area or doing some research online. It is also worth checking the weather forecast, as sudden changes in weather conditions can quickly turn an otherwise safe swimming spot dangerous. Similarly, pay close attention to tide times, as they can dictate the strength and direction of currents.

Acclimatise Yourself To Cold Water

Cold water can shock the body, leading to a gasping reflex and a sudden increase in heart rate and blood pressure. This is known as temperature shock, and it can have disastrous consequences. When wild swimming in cold water, it is crucial to avoid sudden immersion. Instead, acclimatise to the cold water by gradually allowing your body to adapt to the lower temperatures. You can also reduce the overall shock and discomfort of swimming in cold water by regularly exposing yourself to lower temperatures by taking cold showers and baths. 

Bring Safety Equipment

When venturing into remote areas for wild swimming purposes, it's crucial to prioritise safety and be prepared for any unforeseen circumstances. By packing safety equipment, such as a tow float for buoyancy and a pealess whistle to signal for help if needed, you can enjoy your session with minimal risks. It is also wise to pack a first-aid kit to account for any minor injuries, such as cuts and sprains. You can read more about wild swimming safety equipment here

Dress Appropriately

During the warmer months, a simple swimsuit may suffice for wild swimming. However, you may need a wetsuit for added warmth in colder temperatures. Opt for a wetsuit that fits snugly but allows for comfortable movement. A pair of goggles is also advisable to help protect your eyes from dirt and debris. Additionally, footwear is essential, particularly if your swimming spot features rocky or uneven terrain. A pair of water shoes or aqua socks will protect your feet from sharp objects and provide better traction on slippery surfaces. 

Know Your Limits

Wild swimming can be exhilarating yet exhausting. Particularly in exceptionally cold conditions, your body will be under a lot of strain. Never attempt to swim beyond your ability. While it may be tempting to push your limits, doing so can lead to exhaustion, cramps and hypothermia. If you find yourself feeling fatigued or too cold, it's imperative to listen to your body and get out of the water immediately.
Remember, by respecting the water and adopting safe behaviours, you can enjoy the many benefits of wild swimming. 

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