Preparing for Icy Swims On New Year's Day

Preparing for Icy Swims On New Year’s Day

Lewis Pugh, well-known for his pioneering ice swims in the North Pole (-1.7°C) and Mount Everest, drafted 20 tips for cold-water swimming based on his experience of getting in with the right mindset.

With a tradition of ice-swimming around New Year’s around the world, his tips make sense.

1. Keep your head warm. Wear a good thick silicone cap. It makes a world of difference.

2. In Finland, they wear gloves for swimming in icy water. That helps a lot as the tips of your fingers feel the cold the most.

3. Grease won’t make a jot of difference.

4. Don’t dive into the water with thoughts of fear and dread. Get in with a positive mindset.

5. It’s important that you think about what you are thinking about. If you are saying to yourself ‘this is going to be flipping cold’ you will be out the water in seconds.

6. Keep repeating to yourself, ‘I can do this. What a great way to start the New Year!”

7. Don’t plan for victory and defeat in your mind at the same time. Don’t dive in thinking I am going to try and swim 200 metres, but if things get tough, I will get out after 50 metres.

8. Fix your mind on how far you want to swim before you get in. Don’t do it once you are in the water. So say to yourself, “I am going to swim 200 metres (or whatever it is) and that’s it!”

9. Once you have fixed the distance, commit 100%.

10. Get in purposefully and don’t waste time. If you put your toes in, then wait a minute, then up to your waist, and wait another minute, then up to your armpits and wait another minute – you are making life difficult. You are getting cold. Most critically, you are allowing time for negative thoughts to enter your mind. Stride into the water purposefully and start swimming!

11. The first 30 seconds are always the most challenging. Breathe calmly. Swim breaststroke if you wish.

12. After that, get going.

13. Keep the positive mantras going ‘I am loving this! What a fantastic way to start a New Year!’

14. Keep a consistent pace. It’s easy to get out of breath in cold water.

15. Don’t stop till you get to the end of the swim.

16. After you have finished, get out and dry yourself quickly. Don’t waste time.

17. Have a hot shower. If that is not possible, go for quick jog.

18. Enjoy a cup of hot soup.

19. Inuits are good in the cold, because they spend time in the cold. Zulus are good in the heat, because they spend time in the heat. Point being – it is amazing how quickly the body adapts to handing cold – if you spend time in the cold. Start practicing now for New Years Day. Start with a quick 25 metre swim. Tomorrow do a 50 metre swim. And slowly build from there.

20. Enjoy it.

Photo of Lewis Pugh by Jason Roberts.

Copyright © 2010 by World Open Water Swimming Association
Steven Munatones