Friday, February 26, 2016

Winter swimming in Dublin with gloves and bootees

Seapoint Dublin swimming winter
Barbara Sheahan and Lorna Farren winter swimming at Seapoint, Dublin
Winter means hot fires, sofa and telly for some people but not for these women. The sea around Dublin isn't as chilly as the Russian ice-rivers you see people diving into but it's COLD enough to keep most people away. I stopped swimming at Seapoint in October and haven't been back yet!

Lorna Farran tells us why Sundays are sacred for swimming in her world even as the low low water temps continue: 

Why on earth would you venture into the sea in winter?  This is a question I ask myself each week as I stand ankle deep in the sea and the pain shoots up my legs.  But then I wade in deeper and notice that my feet are acclimatising.

What was pain a few seconds ago is now - to quote Pink Floyd - comfortably numb.  Buoyed by this, I enter up to my waist and dive under.  The rush that follows is what makes this moment so special and so addictive.  As I feel my heart beat in my chest my body powers on and my head emerges.  I keep going.  As the seconds lapse I get comfortable and just enjoy the cold enveloping me.  The shock passes and there’s just elation. 

Seapoint Dublin swimming winter

I feel renewed after a dip in the sea, particularly in winter.  I think it’s boosted my immune system, and I’d credit it with mental as well as physical benefits.  Some days I could enter into the water stressed but nothing clears the head like a dunk in cold water.

I definitely think that subconsciously my body says “if you can swim in cold water, you can do anything.”

Top Tips

  1. It mightn’t be as cold as you think: In Ireland anyway.  It’s been tipping a balmy 8 degrees in the sea for most of the winter, so it’s a mild year. 
  2. Be safe:  If you’ve asthma or a heart condition winter swimming mightn’t be for you, so talk to your doctor if you’ve any concerns.  Check out these tips from Dr Mark Harper. 
  3. Get acclimatised: This can be mental as well as physical, and you should be prepared for the cold water.  I recommend wading in gradually and would always stay in my depth and close to the shore.  Booties and gloves help with cold feet and hands. 
  4. Don’t stay in too long:  Many of the regular sea swimmers I know stay in the water for 30 seconds in winter. You do build up a tolerance, but the exhilaration comes from the initial dunk and in my experience you usually don’t notice you’ve stayed in too long until afterwards. 
  5. Meet your fellow ice man/ woman: Aside from the safety benefits of swimming with a group, there is a community of winter swimmers, and it’s a good way to meet people.  This is my third winter swimming at Seapoint in Dublin with the four other ladies that make up the Mespil Swim Team.  We go every weekend, and what was a kinship from a shared hobby many think is mad, is now a firm friendship.  Sharing the flask of tea afterwards is half the fun. 
  6.  Focus on warming up afterwards: I always feel better if I’ve warmed up my body by moving around afterwards, so I’d cycle home or have a quick walk rather than just blasting the car heater.  My hands and toes can get pretty cold, but it doesn’t last long.  While stating the obvious, bring lots of extra clothes – it’s better to have too many layers for afterwards than not enough!
  7. Have fun! I don’t set targets, I just get in and enjoy myself.  The swimmers who stay at it, do it because they love it, not because they are trying to break an endurance record. 
Lorna wrote another inspiring piece on swimming in the Liffey Swim last year.

Seapoint Dublin swimming winter
Deirdre NĂ­ Ghabhann Mespil and Lorna Farren go for into the freezing waters of Dublin Bay!
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