So, you've been enjoying summer swims and want to carry on? While you can swim unlimited through the summer, there are few things that change as autumn settles in. Follow these simple guidelines to stay safe.
Not quite winter swimming
Talk about winter swimming and a cautious, risk-aware approach is clear. It's the in-between seasons, Spring and Autumn, that catch most people out. Why? Because the weather is incredibly variable, water temperatures vary too and, in Autumn, we've become used to relatively carefree swimming.
There are no hard and fast rules when it comes to water temperature. Tolerance not only varies from person to person, but it is also affected by things like illness, fatigue, hydration and nutrition. In other words, you can swim for half an hour at fifteen degrees centigrade one day, and only tolerate the same temperature for 15 minutes the next.
It's also worth bearing in mind that, while it doesn't sound like much, even a degree drop in temperature can make a big difference. Once the water drops below 14 degrees, you need to really pay attention. And if the air temperature is cold or there's wind chill to consider, it's time to be even more vigilant.
The following guidelines will help you. Please remember that this is advice from an experienced winter swimmer and coach, but it's not a substitute for common sense. So, the absolute number first golden rule of outdoor swimming is:
Listen to your body and learn what it's telling you. Don't have a time or distance in mind, have a cue. Getting out before you get too cold is key, so make sure you stop while you're still enjoying it.
Don't swim alone. A swim buddy or someone to hold the towels is a lifeline. Not only can they keep an eye on you, they can also help you warm up.
Take warming up seriously. Ok, when it's 16 degrees out and sunny, you might feel foolish in a bobble hat, but wrapping up warm and drinking a warm (not hot) drink is essential.
Wear a swim hat. This helps with heat retention and makes you visible.
Eat something. Getting your digestion going after a swim will help you warm up from within.