Benefits of working out in the freezing cold!

Sunday morning 26th January was a really nice day at 9 degrees centigrade. The tide was all the way in at 11.30am, when I arrived with one of my swim buddies. When I started winter sea swimming in November, I got quite a shock. The water felt so cold and my feet were freezing. I hadn’t got the feet and hand gloves that really help to protect your extremities from freezing up, so I came up with a routine to help my feet and my body adapt to the cold. As I mentioned before, I began to jog in my bare feet and my swimsuit down the beech for about 1km and then back, moving my fingers in and out with my breath, also to warm them up.

I don’t have any fitness qualifications, apart from the fact, that when I was a teenager, I spent many evenings outside playing rounders with my friends and of course, football and chasing and tip the can! That was the day when TV had nothing on it and iPhones and iPads and laptops and any other technical devises were not even heard of in 1970’s Northside Dublin!

I started my trade as a hairdresser when I was sixteen and I was very conscious of my head and neck bending over consistently and becoming tired, so I took up swimming at age seventeen. It was so good for my body and my neck and shoulders that I continued swimming weekly till the present day, ( I’m fifty two!) I like keeping fit. I like eating healthy food. I also love chocolate, cake, capuchino and beer and wine! But I also seem to know when I’ve had enough, (sometimes) When I was thirty, I joined camogie at my local GAA club, Naomh Finbarra for a few years and I loved that sport! I was sorry I had never played as a kid! It was fantastic being part of a team of girls. Everybody looked out for each other and we had great fun! Following that I continued to go to the gym doing various classes from step aerobics to spinning to yoga and running. I was raising kids and I wanted to show by example, ‘Hey, I’m not sending you out in the cold to play sport, while I’m sitting at home on the sofa, I’m doing it too!

So when I faced that big cold ocean with a plan to warm up and adapt first, I was on the right track. If you are going to just run in and plunge yourself into the cold water for just a minute, well that’s ok. That also has fantastic benefits. It’s like electric shock treatment to the brain, only in reverse. Freezing water will also shock your brain and send adrenalin throughout your body. You won’t be feeling low for long! But Get dressed quickly! And put a hat on your head and have a flask of hot tea waiting for you and possibly a hot water bottle.

If you’re planning to stay in and swim for a bit, warming up first is a great idea. I found that when I’m jogging in the cold, I can go that bit further because I’m cold and I know I will get warm as I keep running. Rosin is the other girl in the photo with me and we have just begun our ground exercises. Supporting our backs with our hands at our bottoms, holding our tummies in and putting no strain on our back or neck, we begin doing our long bicycle kicks. This is a hard exercise to do in the gym, but in the cold weather, you will want to do it! It’s a great one for getting warm. We did five sets of ten on this exercise! As you can see, being on the ground has the added affect of our bodies being soaked by the water and we are now ready to go in!

The other experienced swim ladies are ready to go in with us also. It’s very important to have swim buddies, especially this time of year, when the water is so cold and the waves are strong. We all watch out for each other. We are careful of our depth and of the time we spend in the water. Hypothermia can hit you quickly if you are too long in the cold water and you haven’t warmed up enough and you are not moving enough. There are squeals of laughter as the waves rush up at the ladies going over their heads or the wise ones that saw them coming and jumped into the powerful source of fun! I like to use the waves as a boxing bag and I vent any stressful emotions into the surge. We wait for the waves to have a break and then we swim into the sun. All too soon it’s time to get out. Our bodies are pink and purple with the cold as we finish off our swim by running down the beach for about 500 metres and back. This really helps warm your the outside of your body up and it really prevents you from becoming too cold while dressing!

Well done ladies! it was fabulous!

Jean xxx




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