October Swim Challenge

October Swim Challenge | GlobalWAKEcup

31 October Dips to help keep my lock-down craziness at bay

Last October I committed to something huge (for me) without fully thinking it through – a sea dip for every day in the month of October. Ireland had just entered its second coronavirus lockdown, so myself and two of my friends, Gemma and Mina took on this ridiculous notion with unexpected enthusiasm!

 The lockdown rules at the time meant that we had to stay within 5 kilometres of our home so it was a godsend that we all live right beside the sea. Some days were easier than others. We had some beautiful sunny morning swims, but we also had some rough, windy, cold dark days. I remember making about 10 excuses every single morning but the thoughts of letting the girls down would always pull me through. There were certain mornings when it would take me a good hour to warm up afterwards, sitting at my laptop, trying to work, wearing three fleeces, two pairs of socks and drinking countless cups of herbal tea. I never regretted the plunge though. For me, apart from the social aspect and the camaraderie, the biggest benefit is the initial cold-water shock...

Once I’ve plucked up the courage to get in the water, I gasp involuntarily, then hyperventilate. Anyone who practices yoga may be familiar with Ujjayi breathing (ironically also called ‘Ocean Breathing’) which is a diaphragmatic breathing technique, which first fills the lower belly and moves into the upper chest and throat. I never properly got the hang of it in yoga class until cold water immersion forced me to breathe in that upper diaphragm. From this, I feel an expansion in my chest and an immediate stress relief. Seconds later the adrenaline kicks in, racing heartbeat and sheer panic! Then, a sense of peace as your body starts to warm up and is overcome with a tingling sensation. Your breathing begins to regulate, and you almost start to enjoy the cold and become totally present in the moment. The 31 days of sea swims certainly did help keep our lockdown craziness at bay!

I’ve neglected the sea swims lately, so I thought what better way to get myself going again then another challenge. It makes it so much easier to know that people will be joining in so that’s why we’ve partnered with Wild Atlantic Surf Co. and we’ve asked all of you guys to join our #wildWAKEdip. Some of you are avid wild dippers who do this every day second nature but hopefully we get some newcomers too. For the novices we’ll tell you this: you WILL be going for your swim thinking, ‘I really don’t want to do this’, and sometimes you’ll even think ‘I can’t do this’. There’s a huge nervousness that can come into play before you get into the water, but once you get in and you’ve had that dip, there’s that physical release, and the psychological thought that you’ve achieved something that was initially a challenge.

 

But how does cold water immersion help my mental health?

Professor Mike Tipton, an environmental physiologist at the University of Portsmouth and a keen open water swimmer who carries out studies on how people react to sudden cold water immersion.
Tipton puts his volunteers through a formalised version of our own daily October dips to measure how they adapt to cold shock. He sits his volunteers in a hanging chair, lowers them into a trough of water at 12°C, and keeps them there for about five minutes.
Tipton notes that it only takes six immersions to halve the cold water shock response. In other words, your body learns to adapt: your heart and breathing rates only rise half as much, you panic less and you can control your breathing. This adaptation makes you less reactive to the shock of cold water, but it could also make you less reactive to everyday stress.

Mike's study also found that cold-water swimming was beneficial to a 24 year old woman with anxiety and depression. “It led to an immediate improvement in mood following each swim and a sustained and gradual reduction in symptoms of depression, and consequently a reduction in, and then cessation of, medication. On follow-up a year later, she remains medication-free.”

So what are you waiting for... Our main swims will be in Brighton (England), Sligo (Ireland) and Portrush (Northern Ireland) BUT you can take a dip wherever's safe to swim near you. We are really excited to have you all join us this year and can't wait to see your photos! Please check Instagram for details and competitions/spot prizes that we will giving away during the month. Good luck!

If anyone would like to donate to a mental health charity, our chosen charity is HelpLink who are running the Coldtober campaign. You can donate here:

https://www.idonate.ie/event/3068_coldtober.html

#WildWAKEdip #Coldtober

Author: Ciara Armstrong @ Global WAKEcup