In International Therapist Winter 2021 (Issue 135), we look at the benefits of cold water immersion and share some tips of how to swim safely outdoors.
As part of the feature, we spoke to Sophie Hellyer, face of the wild swimming community, Rise Fierce. Sophie said, ‘Rise Fierce is a community of *female-only swimmers across the UK and Ireland. It all started when I was discussing the health benefits of cold showers with a couple of friends and we decided we should just jump in the ocean instead. So, we met up at 7:30am the next day and jumped in the sea for what was probably about 30 seconds. We said we would go once a week and within the first two weeks we were going every day.
‘I hadn’t predicted that Rise Fierce would become as popular as it has. I think there are a few reasons it has grown so quickly. The first is the epic feeling that comes from cold water immersion, it is indescribable – I think everyone should try it at least once. Secondly, there is a huge aspect of community, as it is unsafe to swim alone. And lastly, the mental and physical benefits are hard to ignore.
‘Although the ritual is about swimming, the primary benefits come from cold-water immersion rather than length of time in the water– in the winter you don’t need to spend any longer than two to five minutes. It doesn’t matter where you decide to swim either, water is water!
*Anyone who identifies as a woman
We also spoke to some FHT members who enjoy swimming outdoors in their spare time. Jackie Hamilton, MFHT and 2019 FHT Complementary Therapist of the Year, said, ‘I’d wanted to do open water swimming for a couple of years but didn’t know how to go about it. By an amazing coincidence, at the beginning of August, I rung an unpaid carer who told me that she goes open water swimming with a group each week. I jumped at the chance and asked if I could go with her and that was it, the next day I was in there with them and loved it.
‘The benefits have been amazing. The camaraderie of open water swimming groups must be experienced – the people I have swum with have been more than welcoming and friendly and there is never any pressure to stay in longer than you feel comfortable.
‘With all that has happened this year, I needed something positive to put my energy towards, and wild swimming is certainly that! It has improved my mental health for sure because it brings excitement to my day. The getting ready for it and looking forward to it is all part of the thrill, it makes me feel alive.
‘If anyone wants to start, I would say give it a go as soon as you can! Start by finding a local open water swimming group, there are Facebook groups for swimmers all over the country, simply type in the search bar ‘open water swimming’ or ‘wild swimming’, followed by your area.’