LIFESTYLE – From warm bake – to chilly lake!

If you’ve noticed wild swimming, open water swimming or cold-water therapy gaining lots of media attention recently, then there is good reason for it. In a year when the world has become unstable and unbalanced, people are looking for new ways to realign their physical and mental health to cope with everything that is going on.

Wild – or outdoor – swimming has enjoyed increased popularity in recent years, with more and more people even braving the elements and swimming throughout the seasons. 

But what is wild swimming? 

Wild swimming is essentially swimming outdoors in natural spaces, such as rivers, lakes or the sea. It has seen a surge in popularity in recent years with more and more people taking to the water on a regular basis.

However, if winter swimming sounds a little bracing, then luckily late spring and early summer is a more favourable time to start. The water temperature is still cold at the start of the official outdoor swimming season, but through gradual acclimatisation your body will soon adjust, and you may be surprised by how much warmer the water temperature feels by the end of the summer – and you should find the experience much more comfortable.

From cold dips in hidden lagoons to epic lakes and rivers and the sea, wild swimming is all the rage in the UK.

And one huge fan of the outdoor sport is celebrity baker Amanda Georgiou from the last series of Great British Bake Off. 

Amanda is a wild swimming fan.

She says: ‘People know me for my baking, but I got into wild swimming and I had seen people doing it on social media.’

‘Although I found it interesting I thought it was something I could never do because of the freezing cold water. I first went to the pond six months after my dad passed away, it was a very difficult time for me and somehow, I needed some kind of a shift in my life.’

‘I had plodded around for months wondering why we are trying to achieve a better life; working hard when it can all be taken away so suddenly. It sounds deep but going through grief makes you re-evaluate a lot.’

‘I first went to the pond with my eldest daughter in June 2020 and felt such a euphoric high I just wanted to stay in.’

‘It wasn’t freezing but still very cold. When I got out, I felt so alive I can’t even describe the feeling. I’ve been hooked ever since. ‘

‘The colder the water the more intense the high. It’s almost as if you can feel the blood rushing around your veins sending a message to every part of your body that you are alive. 

‘When you first get in it feels like a million bee stings. The first 30 seconds are torture but knowing that will soon ease, keeps me going.’

Why is wild swimming so good?

Cold Water Health Benefits:

  • Less muscle soreness – improves recovery
  • Reduces body pain and inflammation
  • Boost your immune system
  • Improve circulation
  • Boost your brain power
  • Potential weight loss (though not guaranteed) through improved metabolism
  • ‘Cold adaptation’ – through repeated cold swimming it is possible to bring down blood pressure and cholesterol  and reduce fat disposition.
  • Good for the skin and hair
  • Manage anxiety, stress and depression
  • Increase alertness, clarity and energy levels
  • Release endorphins (happy hormones)
  • Feelings of euphoria and achievement and a sense of will power
  • A sense of community – meet others who are swimming to have a lovely time
  • Reconnecting with nature

Though wild swimming requires no memberships, clubs and swimming groups around the UK also saw a surge in interest during the pandemic. And, according to Outdoor Swimmer magazine’s annual report, more than half of new swimmers enjoyed the experience more than they expected.

Amanda goes on to say, ‘I’d even go so far as to say wild swimming makes me a better baker. I feel inspired for the day after a swim and that has an effect on everything else that I do. I’d recommend it to anyone and if anyone has any questions they want to ask me about it, they’re very welcome to follow my Instagram.’

Amanda can be found on Instagram: Amanda_foreverbaking

Amanda Georgiou from Great British Bake Off 2021