I was told before I swam outdoors for the first time that the best thing I should do is to splash my forehead with water.
This seemed like terrible advice. The last thing I want to do before swimming in open water is to splash my forehead with water because… well, the water is BLOODY FREEZING!!! Firemen don’t set themselves on fire before tackling a burning blaze so why do swimmers have to freeze before they jump in??!
But cold water it was.
Or at least it was in May in Scotland: the water had only started to reach 10 degrees aka Highland Tropical.
Below 10 degrees, if you’re going for a dip, you need balls of steel – and toes of steel and feet of steel and basically an entire body made from a metal that doesn’t know how to gasp. Above 10 degrees and you can start to consider a paddle, just as long as you don’t dip your head below the surface as otherwise it’s instant brain freeze, faster than sticking an ice lolly up your nostrils.
But the thing is, you adjust to it. The more you do it, the easier it gets. It’s an ice lolly this week, next week it’s a three bar heater. The more you swim outside. the more your body adjusts to the temperature until eventually your skinny dipping in Ben & Jerry’s and wondering why it’s so warm.
First, you have to go in. And the first dip is always the hardest. The water runs down your back. You’re slapped in the face with an ice cube and you lose all feeling in your feet and toes.
If you’re really unlucky, the shock of the cold, causes you body to contract and it feels like Mr Freeze is hugging you, and not in a good way. In a “I’m going to crush your chest coz I’m a strong supervillain type” way.
However, next time, it get’s easier. And the time after that you’re Mr Freeze’s equal. You’re Kettleman! The only man who can make Mr Freeze disappear!
But first you’ve got to get in. So, I splashed my forehead with water and got in the loch. It was freezing. And it was fantastic. And one day I might get my feeling in my feet back.