You might have heard someone refer to wild swimming, and perhaps wondered what the hell they’re talking about. Isn’t swimming just, well… Swimming?
The term is especially popular in the UK, where there does seem to be quite a growth in ‘wild swimming’ clubs in recent years. But what is wild swimming, and is it something you need to get involved with?
What exactly is wild swimming?
The wild aspect of wild swimming refers to swimming anywhere that isn’t a contained or man-made area, such as swimming pool or lido. So yes, wild swimming is pretty much just swimming. The difference is it is usually done over a bigger distance, usually in all weathers (although, take note, not dangerous stormy weathers) and often in the sea or a lake.
Basically, wild swimming is swimming in the great outdoors.
You can do wild swimming anywhere where there is an open stretch of natural water, such as in the sea, a lake, a river, a natural pool or inlet. And you can, of course, do wild swimming with a group or as a solo sport experience.
Why is wild swimming so popular?
The growing popularity of wild swimming has also coincided with the boom in fitness and healthy lifestyles. People have become more aware of the health benefits of swimming, both mentally and physically.
Swimming in the sea or natural surroundings can be very therapeutic, and there is even evidence that swimming in cold water is actually incredibly good for you. And, of course, the action of swimming is a great workout.
There has been a growth in the number of wild swimming clubs, especially in the UK. So the activity of wild swimming has become a big social occasion for many too.
What equipment do you need?
Although swimming in the sea or open water in Europe can be incredibly cold, you actually don’t need much to go wild swimming. Some people will insist on a wetsuit, all year around. Some will brave the waters with just their swimming costume or, at most, a rash vest.
But, so long as you avoid dangerous conditions such as strong swell or currents, you can literally just swim au natural.
Some choose to use a swim buoy, which are usually inflatable and fluorescent. These are attached to the swimmer and are supposed to help you stay afloat if you run into trouble, or alert others to your distress.
We recommend these affordable swimming buoys from Amazon.
A swimming hat and goggles are also optional.
Do I need to use any special technique?
If you’re swimming in open water then you should at least be able to swim with confidence for a period of time. Never go beyond your abilities in terms of distance or conditions in the water.
That said, you don’t need to use any specific swimming technique. Whatever works for you. Some can front crawl, some choose to breast stroke and others might back stroke.
Like jogging, swimming is a form of exercise that is accessible to anyone who can swim. You just need to get in the water and start.
What are the health benefits of wild swimming?
Like all forms of exercise, swimming can boost your endorphins and help you feel happier and more focused. It’s also a good way to disconnect from the digital world, as you can’t take your phone swimming.
Being in or near water is also a great stress reliever, and taking time to be in the water is great for your focus.
Regular swimming also helps to develop a range of muscles, including your shoulders, back, triceps and legs. It’s also a low impact workout, with no joint strain, meaning less time needed to warm up and warm down.
And, as a form of cardiovascular exercise, wild swimming is a great workout for your heart too.
Want to get involved? There are plenty of wild swimming groups out there, just look on Facebook or if you’re in the UK check this link.