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"My name is Dona Mclachlan and I'm addicted to cold water swimming..."

Dona Mclachlan

Open Justice student Dona Mclachlan lets us in on her well-being secret.

I am an addict, you could be too.

My addiction began quite by accident, unfortunate circumstances dictated I spend months on the Kent coast while caring for a much loved dying relative. I started swimming in the sea at the encouragement of one of the hospice nurses. She came in the door, I dashed across the street. Summer turned to winter, I continued battling an intense fear of the cold murky water. Facing the fear and conquering it each day became the attraction, I felt grounded, focused, calm and happy.

What happens when you swim?

It takes approximately 1-3 minutes for skin to acclimatize to the cold, during this time the natural shock response is to gasp for air. Gasping can induce panic, however with sharp focus it is possible to control the natural response. As the water is much colder than we are there is the risk of hyperthermia, a rule of thumb is one minute for each degree of water temperature.  The cold produces pain which does subside with climatization over time. Being mindful of your capabilities is important, as your body cools off so does your muscle control.

What are the benefits?

It takes total focus to stem the panic, being completely in the now without a thought of anything else. Additionally it takes self-control to keep yourself in the water long enough to become acclimatized. A recent Cambridge University study has found habitual swimmers have a ‘cold shock’ protein in their brains that can reduce the risk of dementia. Cold water swimming has been used as a successful treatment for depression as the euphoria associated has lasting effects for some people for days. Menopausal women have reported a decrease in negative symptoms. It has been shown to increase the production of oestrogen and testosterone, a positive effect on the libido. Studies have also confirmed a boost in the immune system and a greater tolerance for cold temperatures.  Additional benefits most swimmers will experience are calm, great stress reduction, increase in calories burned staying warm, improved cardio- vascular health and blood circulation to the skin. But for most it is the overwhelming sense of euphoria which follows a swim.  

Who does not want to be addicted to euphoria, calm, feeling sexier and have a rosy glow all day? Wild swimming is so popular in our village it is tradition on Christmas Day to sprint into the sea for charity after Christmas breakfast while lunch is roasting, Santa hats optional.  I never face a stressful day without a cold water swim, I feel unstoppable. I just cheated death, beat my panic and fear into submission, conquered my failing body and euphorically lived to tell the tale with the rosy pink glow of good health..

Additionally information on cold water swimming and its benefits can be found with the following links:

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