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Wild swimming is continuing to take Britain by storm. It is estimated that around 2.1 million people now prefer to swim in open water, enjoying the natural waters of seas, lakes, lochs, and rivers. Not only are there many potential health benefits to wild swimming, but it can also be a fantastic way to reconnect with nature and feel simply human.
If you choose to free yourself from the thermal and neoprene protection of a wetsuit, cold water immersion can provide you with a sense of elation and even relaxation. It may soothe muscle aches, relieve low mood, and boost the immune system. What’s more, with such little kit needed, it is a convenient way to explore the countryside and is a cost-effective way to exercise.
When taking the plunge, you must remember to look after your body. The waters in Britain can get cold, so it’s essential to prep both pre and post-swim. We’re going to talk about why you should keep things all-natural and reach for CBD lotion. Grab your towel, and let’s learn about wild swimming and how CBD lotion can enhance the experience.
What Are The Benefits of Wild Swimming?
There is something a little exciting and even slightly naughty about entering the open water with just your skin (and maybe a swimming costume) between you and the natural elements. It can be a wonderfully invigorating feeling pushing your body through the water, so it is no wonder that many of us are turning to wild swimming as our favourite form of exercise.
The physical and psychological benefits of submerging in cold waters have been known for a long time. Charles Darwin, George Bernard Shaw, Benjamin Britten, and Florence Nightingale were all advocates of regular cold baths to strengthen physical and mental health. As many wild-dippers know, the natural endorphin rush boosts the mood, exhilarates the senses, and creates the daily urge to dive back in.
A process known as ‘cold adaptation’ kicks in if you swim in cold water on a regular basis. The vasodilatation in the extremities pumps out toxins, and the cold water starts a process of cold adaptation. This helps to build your cold water tolerance quickly, can make chilly water feel more comfortable, and your body more healthy. Cold adaptation not only reduces your body’s sensation of coldness (making even the chilliest of waters enjoyable) NASA has also found that wild swimming is proven to impact mood, libido, and the immune system.
Many wild swimmers say their daily cold plunge is a brilliant way to de-stress, and acts as a form of meditation or mindfulness. It brings them into the here and now, focusing their mind on the physical sensation, allowing them to escape from any worries and concerns. A cold dip can also provide a psychological kick start. A shot of powerful endorphins is released, bringing on a natural high of intense feelings of well being, and, for some, an urge to dive back in. Coldwater swimming is also a great way to burn calories quickly, and build muscle tone.
Wild swimming appeals to a wide range of people, from teenagers who have enjoyed mucking about in their local waters to the older generations who find it keeps them healthy and alert. But whatever your age, it is vital wild swimming is done safely, and with a sense of respect for your body.
How To Care For Your Body When Wild Swimming
As great as open water is for our body and mind, one of the most common complaints among wild swimmers is chafing. For those lucky enough to not ever have to endure the discomfort, chafing is the prolonged rubbing on the skin that makes your skin burn or sting. It can range from a mild, red rash to more severe cases when chafing will include swelling, bleeding, or crusting. For wild swimmers, there are three main types of chafing:
- Skin-on-skin chafing -This commonly occurs when a swim stroke technique needs a bit of work, or a crossover kick style is used. Improper swimming methods can lead to some nasty skin-on-skin chafing.
- Fabric-on-skin chafing - With open water swimming, especially in the winter, there is often a bit of gear involved to help keep us warm. Protective suits, wetsuits, swimsuits, goggles, and caps can cause some awful chafing.
- Hair-on-skin chafing - This might be a surprising one for some, but have you ever noticed that professional swimmers are often entirely hairless from the head down? Believe it or not, but even facial and body hair can cause chafing.
You can take a few simple steps to help keep the chafing at bay, but some are less obvious than others. Here are a few pointers to keep your swimming experience an enjoyable one:
- Improve your stroke technique - Your swimming style may be the chafing culprit. If you are a fan of a crossover kick, it can lead to inner thigh chafing, or if you cross over your mid-line with either arm, the skin around your arms can get sore from the repetitive rubbing. Try to focus on refining your swimming technique, so it is as balanced and streamlined as possible.
- Wax - Don’t worry, we’re not suggesting painful hair removal! A topical wax, such as lanolin, works well as an anti-chafing application. It is, however, pretty difficult to remove. If you have a prickly chin that constantly rubs against your shoulder during the breathing cycle, you can either have a closer shave or try to adopt a new head position to reduce friction.
- Skin lubricants and taping - Chafing can be reduced and even eliminated for some by applying skin lubricants or tape to where most of the friction occurs. Waterproof medical tape, or kinesiology tape, can work well to eliminate chafing, especially under wetsuits, protective skinsuits, and technical swimsuits. If you prefer a more natural route, there are some great CBD lotions out there that will help keep the skin hydrated, reducing friction post-swim.
Skincare for open water swimmers does not start and finish with the shoreline. Showering and moisturising after a swim are as important as what you do before you swim. Many open water venues do not have showers readily available, so many experienced swimmers (including surfers and triathletes) take a big vessel of fresh water with them to rinse off.
Once you have rinsed off with fresh water, it is worth applying a quality CBD lotion all over your body. Using a CBD lotion may help lock in moisture, and has excellent potential to help relieve sore muscles after a challenging swim.
CBD Lotion and Wild Swimming
If you want to keep your wild swimming experience all-natural, an excellent product to include in your kit is CBD lotion. CBD (short for cannabidiol) is a natural compound found in cannabis plants. It is made using an extraction method whereby the CBD compound is removed from the cannabis plant and then diluted with a carrier oil, such as hemp seed oil or organic coconut oil.
CBD lotion has a light consistency, just like a standard body lotion, but with additional potential benefits. It can be applied under your sunscreen before you swim, or after your session by massaging it all over your body, or on localised areas that may need a bit of attention. Many swimmers use CBD lotion as their topical treatment of choice, as it has great potential for helping with sore muscles.
You may be surprised how in touch you become with your body once wild swimming becomes a part of your lifestyle. With the added physical activity, you may notice a few niggles which will need attention to keep you in top form. CBD lotion is excellent for supporting your overall wellbeing, and when applied to targeted areas, it may help with joint and muscle care.
The combination of massage and CBD lotion may provide a holistic approach to muscle and joint recovery. Applying the CBD lotion in circular motions and using firm pressure may help to relax muscle tissue, and reduce any discomfort. CBD lotion is also acceptable to be used under SPF products, so put it on before your sunscreen if you’re heading out for a swim to help protect your skin from the elements.
Many CBD lotions contain additional ingredients which have the potential to support your pre and post-swim body care routine even further. Green tea extract, for example, has been found to help keep your skin looking younger. CBD lotion with added bisabolol can act as an anti-irritant, which may help calm and soothe your skin.
Using a combination of CBD lotion and exposing your body to a refreshing swim can bring about a healthy mind and body, with the added benefit of a glowing complexion. Swimming will help your body stay young (or at least young-feeling) through exercise, and using a high-quality CBD lotion may support the skin’s natural health both in and out of the water.
How To Take Your First Dip
Now that you know how to care for your body before and after a wild swim, you may be feeling eager to get into the water. If it is your very first time getting into cold open water without a wetsuit, arrive at the site feeling as warm as possible. Many swimmers layer up and take a brisk walk to their swimming spot to get them toasty warm before getting in.
If you are a little concerned about what’s underfoot, old trainers or swimming shoes are great for building your confidence, and will allow you to explore. It is also possible to swim without any kit at all. Wear your underwear, or go utterly starkers if your swimming space is secluded. If you don’t have a towel, you can wipe most of the water off with your hands and sacrifice one item of clothing to dry yourself off.
Once you have taken those first few steps into the water, it will take a few minutes for the cold feeling to ease. Try to be in the moment and simply observe the feeling. Once you have fully submerged and gotten used to the temperature, stay aware of your body. You don’t want to stay in so long that you start to shiver, so be sure to get out and warm up after about 20 minutes.
Once out of the water, you will want to get nice and warm. There is a common condition wild swimmers experience which is called “afterdrop”. It is the phenomenon that occurs when your body temperature continues to drop, even after you have gotten out of the water and are in a warmer environment. You may feel even colder than you did when you first got out of the water for around 10 to 40 minutes. It can sometimes be a pretty uncomfortable experience, with feelings of faintness, shivering, and feeling generally unwell.
The key to warming up and staying well after a swim is to warm up slowly and gradually. To reduce the risk of afterdrop, remove all of your wet layers and pat yourself dry. Then, starting with the top half of your body, get those layers on. Choose warm clothes, such as thermals, woollen jumpers, insulated jackets, woolly hats and gloves, and long coats. For swimmers, silver foil blankets do not help warm you up. Unlike after a long run, you are not radiating heat, so there is no escaping heat for the silver foil blanket to trap.
If you find your feet get especially cold after a swim, you could stand on something warm as you change to avoid losing more heat from your feet. A changing mat or wooden bath mat will suffice. Some winter swimmers think ahead and take a thermos of warm water, which they pour into a small basin to stand in.
Once you are dressed, take a moment to sip on a warm drink and nibble on a snack. This will help gently heat the body from the inside out. Now head back to a warm environment, or go for a walk to generate some natural body heat. It can take a bit of time to get your body to a comfortable temperature again, so post-swim care is essential.
Don’t be tempted to jump into a hot bath or shower, as they may affect blood pressure, making you feel faint and unwell. The key is to rinse off in warm water, not hot. After washing off, get dry and moisturise your skin all over with CBD lotion. As mentioned above, CBD lotion is perfect for your post-swim skincare, as it is nourishing and may help lock in moisture to keep chafing at bay.
Open Water Safety Tips
As with all watersports, some safety precautions need to be considered before throwing yourself into a large body of open water. Open water swimming brings its own set of risks and dangers, which you should always address before entering the water. While the overall goal is to find enjoyment in your swim, you should never forget how to stay safe in open water.
It can be easy to get carried away while taking the plunge for the first time, so follow a preparation checklist such as the one below:
- Have you made plans to swim with someone? - It can be really dangerous to swim in open water on your own. Always try to swim with another person, and preferably with someone you know. Additionally, always make sure someone else knows where you are planning to swim.
- Are you aware of the weather conditions? -The weather can play a massive part in the difficulty of open water swimming conditions. If you feel even slightly unsafe, don’t get in.
- Do you know the swimming route you are taking? -This may seem like a relatively simple tip, but you should carefully plan out your route and make sure someone else knows where you are going swimming.
- Have you planned where you will be getting in and out of the water? - It probably isn’t the biggest worry swimmers have when thinking about wild swimming, but it is vital to have a clear plan on where you are entering and exiting the water.
- Have you taken your wetsuit for a test swim? - It is surprising how much wearing a wetsuit changes your swimming stroke. Try to take it out for practice in a pool before heading out to the wild.
- What is the temperature of the water? - If you are a fan of wearing as little clothing as possible during your swims, this is especially important. Swimwear can only provide so much protection. The water can get very cold, so get used to the shocking temperature slowly. If you have any concerns about the temperature, it is time to get out of the water.
- Do you have a good pair of goggles, and some lubricant or tape? -The water in seas, lakes, and rivers are often murky, which means visibility will be poor. It is a good idea to wear goggles when wild swimming, and apply some tape or lubricant around your neck to avoid chafing.
- Are you aware of the weirs if you are swimming in a lock? - Knowledge of tide times is not only essential for sea swimming. When swimming in lochs, it is vital you know when the best time to go in and come out, as you need to be aware of tip currents and what to do if you accidentally get caught in one.
If you can’t answer yes to the above points, you may want to seriously consider giving the swim a miss. There are lots of organised groups out there who focus on open water swimming sessions and who can help teach you the safety basics.
Even in a group swim, there are a few basic safety habits you can adopt, just in case you do find yourself in a spot of bother. For example, take a tow float and whistle out with you on your swim. A tow float works brilliantly as a clear visual aid for rescuers, and the whistle will help you attract attention if you are in trouble.
Remember that alcohol and swimming never mix, no matter how tempting it is to have a tiple to calm the nerves. Impaired judgement from having a drink can lead to a severe accident even out of the water, and things go wrong even quicker when there is swimming and possible tidal currents involved. Instead, consider a natural calming alternative, such as CBD. Rubbing CBD lotion onto your skin before a swim may help relax your muscles and bring you a sense of balance before heading out into the open water.
Where To Go Wild Swimming
For many, the thought of swimming in British waters is stomach-churning. Our rivers and lakes had a terrible time with pollution during the 1950s and 1960s. However, after a massive amount of work and stricter legislation, the open waters are cleaner than ever. Over 70% of our rivers are now good or excellent, and they have become a safe wildlife haven once more.
With wild swimming, you can now swim in clean water and get closer than ever to nature. A little footpath, ford, footbridge, or any open access land bordering open water could be a magical place to a good place for a wild swim. If you are lucky enough to be close to a river, the bends often create shallow beaches on the inside and deeper pools on the outside, perfect for swimming.
If you are not sure of the best spots to go open water swimming, there is plenty of information online, and if you prefer a more traditional method, ordnance survey maps provide details of where open water can be found. Wild swimming is a fantastic adventure, and by taking a dive, you may discover new places you didn’t know were on your doorstep.
Will You Take The Plunge?
There are some fantastic benefits to wild swimming, and it may be made even more enjoyable with CBD lotion. Applying CBD the night before may help the cannabinoids absorb into your skin and potentially help you get a relaxing good night’s sleep. Ensuring you get plenty of rest will support your overall wellbeing and give you the energy to openly accept colder natural waters.
Remember to consider your own health and safety before getting into the water. There are lots of wild swimming groups out there, so reach out and join one of their sessions. You may find a new sense of adventure and reconnection with the natural world, as well as some new friends. Go on, take the plunge.
Written by | Infused Amphora Team
The Infused Amphora Team is dedicated to creating resources to educate and engage consumers on the growing evidence of CBD benefits and the extensive health and wellness properties of CBD Oil.
Contributor | Angus Taylor CEO
Infused Amphora “Learn” is intended for informational purposes only and is NOT a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.