The Mind-Clearing Magic of Cold Water Swimming

Lucy Laucht cold water swimming

Last fall, my friend Lucy Laucht felt adrift — she had recently lost her father, her mother was suffering from Alzheimer’s, and her marriage had broken down. “Everything that could happen was happening,” she said. “I was on a journey to figure out who I was again.” The surprising thing that helped most? Swimming in very, very cold water…

Lucy Laucht cold water swimming

Her first cold swim was in October 2020, when a friend living near her in Cornwall, England, suggested wading into the freezing ocean — also known as cold water swimming, winter swimming or wild swimming. “I was terrified,” Lucy remembers. “I made such a song and dance about it.” But she finally forced herself to walk into the water. When she got out, she felt euphoric.

After that, the friends swam every morning — even on the coldest December days. Lucy wears a swimsuit and stays in for 6 or 7 minutes. “Your skin burns. It feels really good. You just feel alive. In that moment of surrender, I can literally think of nothing else other than, OH MY GOD. It clears your mind of everything else.”

More and more women have gathered together to swim. “I went last week with a group of girls, and it was just magical. The sun was rising over the horizon, and I could see steam rising off our skin in the water. I was like, wow, what an incredible thing to be able to do.” Other days, Lucy prefers swimming alone. “Pulling through the water, ducking my head under the waves — I love the peacefulness of it.”

When I was talking with her on the phone, I kept saying that I couldn’t imagine tolerating the cold water. She laughed: “People are always like, oh my god, are you mad? But it’s funny because once you’ve conquered it and practiced it, it doesn’t feel immense anymore. Once you do it, all the fear goes away. And that’s everything in life, right?”

Would you ever swim in cold water? If you’d like to start, make sure to go with other people at first. “When you get in the water, you can have this involuntary gasp,” explains Lucy. So, go with a partner until you’re confident enough to read the water and know your body’s reactions.

And if you’re not able to swim in the ocean, Lucy suggests cold showers, which have a similar effect. “It shocks your body a little bit,” she says. “Pro tip!”

Lucy Laucht cold water swimming

Lucy Laucht cold water swimming

Lucy Laucht cold water swimming

Lucy Laucht cold water swimming

Lucy Laucht cold water swimming

Lucy Laucht cold water swimming

Thank you so much, Lucy! Check out her print shop here, if you’d like.

P.S. On happiness, and the beauty uniform of a polar explorer.

(Photos of Lucy by Victoria Harrison; all other photos by Lucy Laucht.)

  1. Sue says...

    I’ve been “dipping” in an alpine river over the winter here in France… Real magic …

  2. JP says...

    I recently jumped into my community pool on a 60 degree LA day and had a similar experience of clear-mindedness and peace. I lost both of my grandparents, both my dogs, and a few friends last year, and have been recovering from back surgery (I’m 34, this was unexpected) the last 3 months. One day, after falling down the stairs, I’d just had it and jumped in that pool. I’m sure my neighbors thought I was insane. But it was the first day in months when I felt happy.

  3. Tara Kenney says...

    My Mum has been wild swimming in her lake in Ontario, Canada for years. She chops a hole in the ice (and has had a bubbler in the past, to keep the hole from freezing over). At 65, years old she has gone viral on Tiktok for her submersions (and barefooting) – @barefootsue. I don’t have Tiktok myself, but its always hilarious running into teenagers who do, and know who my Mum is!

    • beven says...

      omg, your mother is amazing

  4. Kelly P says...

    I also live in Cornwall (Mevagissey) and know several people who do this regularly, but so far I haven’t been able to bring myself to even consider it. Maybe some day… (?!?!)

  5. Rachel says...

    I’m also in Cornwall and loving the swimming, and have been swimming regularly all year. We are lucky here because the water really only is properly cold (ie lower than 11c) for a very few months of the year over the winter but the rest of the time it’s between 12c and 15/6c which is just lovely. Cold enough for sure but totally do-able no matter how much you might think it’s not. Such a soothing feeling particularly if you go regularly.

  6. Brittany says...

    This is awesome! I’m a wimp when it comes to cold so I’m not sure I’ll be trying it anytime soon, but we’ve all got to find our invigorating things right? If you wanna read more about distance swimming in cold water, check out Swimming to Antarctica: Tales of a Long-Distance Swimmer by Lynne Cox. It’s a fascinating look at Cox’s life as a long distance Swimmer. By age 16 she broke ll the records for swimming the English Channel, and she was the first swimmer to swim the Strait of Magellan! She talks about how she is so good in cold water, scientists actually studied her body’s reactions when she was swimming.

  7. Kristen says...

    Brrrrrr… a few months ago I started cold water rinses at the end of my shower. Terrible at first. Felt out of my comfort zone for sure. Now I crave the cold water rush. It is a nice reset for me. I still have to take a couple deep breaths before I turn to knob to cold though!

  8. Some of my favorite memories are skinny dipping in freezing cold water with friends. We live on an island 11 miles out to sea and there is a cove that allows you to feel protected from the waves. Nothing beats the rush of the icy cold water and the euphoric clarity you feel getting out.

  9. Grace says...

    Love the spirit of this post as I’m someone who never met a body of water I didn’t want to dive into… but cold water can be incredibly dangerous and the danger can come quick. A few years ago I dove off a dock into a lake in Maine in May and quickly got out only to wish I had stayed in the water a little longer. So I dove in once more, but this time my body went into shock. I couldn’t speak. I had trouble breathing and I couldn’t pull myself up the dock ladder to get out of the water. I’m incredibly lucky that my husband was with me and was able to lean out over the edge of the dock and haul me out. I’m a former lifeguard and a strong swimmer and someone who has embraced swimming in cold temps – but since this experience I’ve approached cold-water swimming with much more respect for the cold and what it can do to your body. Please be careful and never swim alone.

  10. Scarlett says...

    I WANT TO DO THIS SO BAD. If I lived near a body of water I would 100% make this a part of my daily routine, but I don’t have anywhere to swim :(((((((( I know there’s always the option of a cold shower but actually being in a body of water has a certain magic to it that a shower just can’t touch.

    • Casey says...

      I’m sitting here having the same thoughts. How soon until I can move and live by a lake or an ocean?

  11. cph says...

    There is a ton about cold water swimming in Katherine May’s recent (incredible) book Wintering. I highly, highly recommend reading it (though there is something quite special about reading it in February, so maybe put it on the calendar for next Winter!).

    Also, a number of years ago I tried the cold water shower thing for almost a month. It did nothing for me! I suspect that the knowledge that you are doing it to yourself and can just turn the water back to hot, and the lack of natur-y ambience undermined the psychological benefits! I’m still working on taking lukewarm showers for the benefit of my skin and hair. The rest of me just likes a very hot shower!

  12. Madame says...

    I love wild cold swimming! I have done it off and on my whole life. I am on an island off the coast of France right now and today was a perfect day for a quick dip. I always say: you NEVER regret a swim, but you always regret not having done it.

  13. Sara B says...

    Speaking of Lucy, how is your sister?

  14. Angela says...

    We built a house and found a dream property, where we could build a small lake. I’d read an article or comment about an older woman that swam naked everyday, no matter the weather. I wanted that to be me. I’m drawn to the water like that, growing up in a river town. There’s also something divinely feminine about water. It is actually where we all come from. And I’m a decidedly naked person.
    Well I got my lake, but I can’t make myself get in before Memorial day or after Labor Day. Plenty of naked, spontaneous summer swims but despite seeing this trend picking up steam, I just cannot make myself do it. I’m hoping that I can continue this fall, and maybe into cold weather this year. I’m always a late bloomer.

    • blandine says...

      Hi Angela, I am very curious, did you really build a lake on your property? How does one go about doing that if you don’t mind elaborating? Thank you!

  15. KJ says...

    So curious about this but it does seem quite dangerous! I can swim but I’m not really a “swimmer” in terms of strokes. But very intrigued and going to do more research on this.

    Stay safe, everyone!

  16. jules says...

    Those few of us who grew up on Lake Superior knew this long ago. The secret is to dive in head first, right away. If you tiptoe, you talk yourself out of it. Like so much in life.

    • Kate says...

      Yes! I didn’t grow up here, but I always rush straight into Lake Superior! No point in dawdling, you’re just prolonging the initial discomfort.

    • Lacey says...

      Moved to the north shore of Lake Superior 4 years ago and every time I catch a glimpse of it driving around town or see it peaking through the trees out my window, I’m planning the next time I can see her up close. I need a swim buddy so I can go more often! My husband and I got wetsuits so we could swim earlier and longer in the season. The cold water is amazing and I feel so tough when I’m out there.

  17. Liz says...

    This article has felt like a bit of magic this week. Reading the initial article and, more so, the comments from women around the world, about this life I know nothing about and yet also somehow miss/long for (?) has completely captivated me the way a good book does. Thank you for that . :)

  18. Ok. This is my third attempt. So will make it short. In 1976 I started swimming in San Francisco Bay. I did my first swim across the Golden Gate Bridge. I’m now up to 95 crossings. My goal is 100. My first swim from Alcatraz to Aquatic Park was on News Years Day in 1979. The water temp was 45.F. No wetsuit or any neoprene. I thrive in cold water. Thank you.

    • B says...

      Wow! I grew up in Northern California and the SF Bay is vast and freezing! Very impressive and inspiring. Good luck on making it to crossing #100!

  19. Elle says...

    I love everything about this and have read so much about cold water swimming, also my heart goes out to Lucy, but just a reminder we are still under lockdown here in the U.K. – and you can only meet one other person outside for exercise (or go with your own family or support bubble). I wish I could swim with a group of friends but it’s not the right thing to do right now. CoJ has been very responsible with stay home messages and I feel like this should be the case here in the U.K. too. Luckily from 29th March we can meet up to 6 people for exercise/recreation.

  20. Elise says...

    I just moved to the Olympic Peninsula in Washington state and had heard rumors that women around here do cold water swimming. I finally met someone the other day – she emerged from the bay as I ran by and waved. I said – “tell me everything!”, and she did. I can’t wait to try it.

    • Elisa R says...

      I’m in Seattle, but just 2 blocks from a beach on the sound. I’m so curious to try this early in the morning.

  21. CS says...

    Beautiful post, Joanna. Thanks!

    I do have a question, though. Many of the commenters write about jumping through a hole in the ice. That sounds so dangerous. What about the undercurrents below the ice? How do people get back out? Especially if it is dark and hard to see the light through the hole- how do people
    Find their way back? Unless it is a huge hole in the ice? Just trying to understand and get my head around it. As a person who has enjoyed swimming on cool days (not freezing though! Lol!!) I am slightly alarmed every time I read that someone is jumping into a hole through the ice.

    • kiki says...

      I mean, any type of cold water swimming is going to have some risk involved. But this is a thing! Check out this Lake in Minnesota: https://www.instagram.com/p/CL7IOr_gFEc/

    • CS says...

      Thanks for sharing that! That is so much nicer than what I envisioned…. and the hole is much bigger! 😊

  22. Ags says...

    Except “wild swimming” is just swimming outside of a swimming pool and instead heading to streams, lakes and rivers. It doesn’t have to be cold and certainly isn’t always so extreme

    • Roberta says...

      Agreed! I grew up swimming in the Atlantic (in Ireland)….we never called it “wild swimming” or “cold water swimming” – just swimming! Pop your togs on, head in, swim about, feel amazing! You’d live forever if you did it every day :)

    • Cynthia Miller says...

      Haha! I get such a kick out of the term “wild swimming,” or as we always called it in lakes and rivers of the Amazon- “swimming.”
      I say that “wild swimming” is a term invented by white men- to make themselves feel brave and courageous or something. (Not that I am either brave or courageous!)

  23. I do this every Wednesday night with my two best friends in the cold Colorado winter. We dip in the Animas river naked and it’s the highlight of the week. We have streamlined our ‘system’ and have dinner and tea together afterwards. Our kids (ten teens) roll their eyes when they see the robes and the boots, but are always willing and eager to gather around the table for the festivities afterwards. Once you let go of the ‘taboo’ nature of the cold, it’s truly wonderful!

    • Sandra Becerril says...

      That sounds splendid to me!

  24. MissGrits says...

    Where I used to live in Ireland, a group of men and women met every morning for a swim in the Galway Bay. They called themselves the Mermaids, even the men, and would begin with a large circle in the water while the unofficial leader would say a prayer for everyone. The prayer wasn’t religious, just a call to the universe to protect everybody. I was never brave enough to enter that cold water and swim with them. We visit every summer (except for the last for obvious reasons). One day I’ll get up the nerve.

  25. Hali says...

    My mom is so hypothetically into this! She even gifted me a little booklet in my stocking at christmas with tips on “wild swimming.”

    She’s so into it that few years ago on a family trip to england, when my mom, sister and I all converged on London for less than 24hrs before heading to our holiday destination (a canal, gross for swimming), we dragged our supremely jet lagged bodies to Hampstead Heath to swim in the Ladies Pond there. It was the hottest day of the year and a bank holiday, so the pond was a very crowded party of half naked women- not at all what we had pictured in our heads. Was truly one of my favorite days alive. A brilliant jet lag cure.

    I LOVE that women swim year-round in Europe. My mom lives in HI and I in CA- and we are pathetic wimps about our ocean temps but like to think of ourselves as wild swimmers at heart. One day…

  26. Megan Johnson says...

    Eek! I tried a cold shower recently and absolutely f*cking hated it, haha! I wanted to enjoy it so badly, but Christ, was it horrible. You know what I find incredibly head-clearing though? Going to the grocery store on a Friday night by myself. Yes, I know – sounds dreadfully boring but everything is in stock for the weekend, no one is there, and nothing beats that full-fridge-and-pantry feeling. I love not having to spend my precious Saturday finding a parking space, fighting the crowds, etc. Give me a podcast to listen to while wandering the aisles and I’m a happy clam!

    So if you’re a little less brave than Lucy, try my approach :-)

    • Denise says...

      An hour or two on Friday night beats half a damn Saturday! And I always get something special, like cheese and crackers with wine, for my dinner.

    • Lyndsey says...

      Yes Megan! Same here! Friday night grocery shoppers unite!

  27. L says...

    I have a family member who is a long distance swimmer. A couple of weeks ago she did crawl from Robben Island in Cape Town to the beach – 6 hours swimming and the water was 13 degrees c (57 Fahrenheit). She said she finds it to be a type of meditation, and she imagines warmth radiating from her chest so she doesn’t feel the cold. From that description it *almost* sounds idyllic

  28. hahaha I LOVE cold water swimming! Have been doing it for years in the Tetons, snowmelt in the summer makes for perf water temps : ) I loved reading this and really love all the stories of women getting together to swim!

    • Diana says...

      hey Monica I know exactly who you are! xo Diana (SF)

  29. m says...

    I lived in Russia for awhile and they would turn off heat in all the pipes for one week, for some reason to do with cleaning. We had to endure freezing showers, but I would try to make it better by pretending I was at summer camp and it was cold lake water, ha! Inspired by this article, I took a cold shower this morning and it was surprisingly amazing! Would try again!

  30. Lauren says...

    I’m also reminded of AT THE POND, a collection of essays about swimming at the Kenwood Ladies’ Bathing Pond on Hampstead Heath in London.

    https://dauntbooks.co.uk/shop/books/at-the-pond-swimming-at-the-hampstead-ladies-pond/

    I was enchanted with the idea, and it didn’t occur to me until right now that, if all goes well, I’ll be in the UK with my husband, mother, and stepfather this fall (tickets booked and fingers and toes crossed) and can actually take that plunge! Are my 70-year-old mom and I going to hit the pond in October? Readers, I think we must.

  31. Annie Green says...

    My daughter and her boyfriend go wild swimming most weekends in Edinburgh. Then they go and eat fish and chips or have a bacon roll. She assures me it is wonderful.

    • KC says...

      I was just thinking how awesome this sounds, but how it wouldn’t be possible here. I stand corrected! But I stand on the shore. Because I got hypothermia once swimming in Lake Michigan in September.

  32. Ainsley says...

    This reminds me of the lyrics to the song “New Bikini” by Cassandra Jenkins:

    So I told him
    Baby, let’s get you to the ocean
    Everybody’s saying
    It cures everything
    The water
    It cures everything

    The artist was the opening act at one of the last concerts we attended before everything shut down, and the lyrics to this song have been running through my head ever since. Unfortunately, the song hadn’t actually been released on an album, so all I had was the memory of her performing it. The song was finally released this winter, and it feels so special to be able to pull it up and replay it on demand now: https://music.apple.com/us/album/new-bikini/1539427484?i=1539427488

  33. Anna says...

    Pleasant surprise in the last photo: I have the same Italian cafetière at my flat.

  34. Natalie McMonagle says...

    Here in Mpls, we have a crew of beautiful, welcoming “submergents” who dip into the hole they’ve carved into a local lake. Strangers last fall, they now join to clear the hole of ice and enjoy the physical, psychological and spiritual benefits of submerging in the cold waters. One of our recent joiners had lost her husband and brother-in-law and fallen into deep grief. Since beginning a few weeks ago, her mood had completely lifted. She is full of life and joy and wonder. She posts daily about how grateful and happy she feels, “smiling so wide beneath my mask!” We are all feeling grief this year, and this act has a way of breaking that sense of aloneness (or even embracing the peaceful, healing solitude). I loved Lucy’s story and encourage others to try it, if not for anything else than the “OH MY GOD.”

  35. May says...

    One winter, I worked at an outdoor camp for elementary schoolers. Every Thursday, we did a sauna. Staff members had different jobs – one person to chop a hole in the ice on the lake, one person to stoke the wood stove to heat up the sauna. When the hole in the ice was made, the sauna was hot, and the kids were ready, shivering with cold and nervous energy in their swimsuits, two staff members would stand out on the frozen ice with a lamp, one staff member would stand by the door and direct the flow of traffic between the sauna and the lake (“NO RUNNING!!”), and one person was assigned to be in the sauna and participate. The thought of plunging into the cold lake through a hole in the ice is so horrible, that nobody ever wanted to volunteer for that last role. “I’ll just sit in the sauna and not dip in the lake!” we would say, if it was our turn to be in the sauna. But after half an hour in the hot sauna, after hearing each 4th grader venture nervously down the snowy path, onto the ice, hearing them will themselves into the water with a yelp, and then emerge SO proud of themselves, we’d always realize that a dip in the lake was a good idea. After all of the kids had finished, we took our turn. There is nothing like the calm and clarity you feel after a sauna and a dip in a cold lake. The kids felt it, too. They’d go from boisterous, screaming, nervous kids to calm, wise, little philosophers. Cold swimming is magic!! My mom and I have a rule that if the thought of swimming occurs to us while we are near water, we have to do it. That’s because neither of us have EVER regretted a swim, even if it seems too cold.

    • Cath says...

      May – that sounds just magical. Your writing is so lovely

  36. Ann says...

    That book, Why we swim is on my list to read. These photos are so gorgeous and make it look so inviting. Coffee or tea with friends on the beach after a dip?! Lovely! BUT cold water is just not for moi. I skinny dipped in Puget sound once. No. Freezing!

  37. Eva says...

    I love everything about this. The idea, the dreamy pictures. It made my day just to read this. Thank you.

  38. Jesse Lucas says...

    There’s a really lovely Icelandic saying:

    “KEMUR ALLT MEÐ KALDA VATNINU”

    It essentially translates to, “things will fall into place.”

  39. Louisa says...

    My husband’s family has a cabin on a lake in northern Minnesota with a wood-fired sauna. In the winter, you crank the sauna as high as you can stand it (or higher, in my case), and once your heart is racing and you’re dropping with sweat and feeling like you will die you (without second guessing yourself) run out the dock and jump through a hole cut in the ice of the lake. Everything about this ritual sounds ill-advised. But coming out of the water with everything tingling and your heart racing (and being a pale naked body under the stars) is absolutely euphoric.

    • dubois says...

      I love this but I’ve read you’re supposed to respect the shock the cold will give your body and enter slowly so you do not literally give yourself a heart attack! Maybe it’s different if you’ve grown up doing this but surely extreme shocks are ill-advised for most. I would think it more than enough to dip in the water while you’re still at ambient temperature, then sauna, repeat.

    • jules says...

      @dubois – I don’t know about that, since the custom if there is a sauna and no lake is to jump into the snow and roll around in it.

  40. pmia says...

    God, I miss the ocean.

    Beautiful pics and beautiful story. <3

  41. Twyla says...

    So interesting to read this article today! I’ve been reading a lot about the Vagus nerve and how stimulating it can greatly reduce anxiety. The nerve can be stimulated by deep belly breathing, humming, and you guessed it – cold water!

    • Erin says...

      I’ve found that cold baths (not freezing, but about 68 degrees, which feels plenty cold) are profoundly relaxing and strongly vagus nerve-stimulating! I can feel my whole nervous system instantly shift gears and my brain just empties itself. I get in the empty tub and then fill it because the cold feels less startling that way.

  42. Court says...

    I love this. An actual, real-life way to manage the disorienting moment we’re currently in. I live in Austin and cannot imagine surviving the summers without Barton Springs, which is only 68 degrees, but is quite a shock compared to a 108 degree August day!

  43. AK says...

    I’m part of a group of women who meet every morning to swim. Granted, it’s once Spring begins but there is nothing more magical than seeing a group of women walk through the forest to gather on the edge of a lake at sunrise, peel off their clothes, and wade into the water. It’s a secret I savor carrying throughout my day. The store is out of the cereal I wanted? That’s cool, I started my day with a naked swim!

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow, AK! I love this!

    • Court says...

      Naked! How wonderful!

    • pmia says...

      Amazing! Chills. Love it.

  44. VVeronika says...

    I’m going through IVF, lost our last one at 10th weeks a few monthys ago so it’s been hard. We are prepearing for the 4th round and as times passes and the date gets pushed further and further I felt lost and I developed certain physical sympthoms…my husband does the cold shower since years (hello Wim Hof method) but I always resisted since i HATE cold water. One day I was very low and thought ok…I’m doing it now. I was kind of screaming and singing first, it was so cold..but coming out I felt what euphoric too just like Lucy. It’s been 3 months now and I love it, I feel so much better everytime! its also a good practise to teach yourself not to be afraid and to simply act on your decision: “I”m going in” and you go in”

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      wow that’s incredible, VVeronika. and I’m so, so sorry for your loss. xoxo

    • Liz says...

      I am holding you in my heart.

    • Lisa says...

      I’m so sorry for your loss – I’m in a similar position. Had a successful round of IVF and when we went for an early scan (8 weeks) the fétus was measuring at 6 weeks. We had to wait for two weeks to go back for a follow up scan, only to be told that there had been no growth. I’m starting IVF again in a few weeks. I feel sad and scared and excited all at the same time. Wishing you all the luck in your journey.

  45. Carina says...

    I also live in Cornwall and I live for a cold water swim in the sea!

  46. Jackie says...

    I’m reading the book Why We Swim by Bonnie Tsui (so fascinating) and this is very much a known thing, the stories shared in the book are just incredible! Going to have to try in Lake Superior … !

    • Kate says...

      I also live on Lake Superior! The bay is iced over but once it melts I can’t wait to jump in – she’s always chilly, even in summer!

  47. annie says...

    what wonderful photos.

  48. Kate says...

    In Katherine May’s book Wintering she describes it as feeling your blood “sparkling in your veins”. An apt description. Last summer (2019) a group of us ran into Lake Superior in June and it was incredibly cold, we all screamed and ran out. But it felt SO amazing after reaching the shore that I ran in again! I tried to stay in longer but couldn’t stop screaming! I would love to feel that way again. So fresh and alive.

    • Alex Pearl says...

      Adored this book and this post immediately made me think of this book!

  49. Alison D says...

    I love cold showers in the summer. I remember reading about cold swims as an old time depression treatment and I definitely notice a difference myself – that shock to your system. I’ve also sometimes woken up and melted an ice cube on my face for the same effect. Being able to swim in the cold ocean sounds so amazing though.

  50. Maryn says...

    I don’t know if I’m brave enough for a cold water swim, but I’ve found that going on long walks in the cold (bonus if it ‘s snowing) has a similar effect for me! It’s so refreshing—it really wakes you up and resets something in your brain.

    Also, these PHOTOS. Beyond stunning. I love this post so much.

  51. Catherine says...

    Listen, I’m starting getting menopause hot flashes and I must say, this sounds appealing! It would clear more than my mind!:)

    • Kristie Dahlia Home says...

      It does! I live on a sailboat in Mexico and I find that during the portion of the year when the water is cold, taking dip and staying in until I feel chilly, about 20 minutes, to really drop my body temperature, makes a huge difference in my hot flashes in this climate.

  52. Talia says...

    “Why We Swim” by Bonnie Tsui is a fantastic book that explores this topic (and many others related to swimming and water)

    • Ana says...

      She has put words to what I feel when I swim alone and and naked in the ocean in winter. I am also a firm believer in cold showers. If you do it in the morning, you won’t need coffee!

  53. Alice says...

    Cold water swimming is brilliant! But you SHOULD NOT just start doing it in the middle of winter, unless you’re wearing a full wetsuit. The safest option is to swim in the sea/ the lake/ whatever very regularly from August onwards- your body then gets used to the gradually decreasing water temperatures. And yes, always start by going with other people! There was a news story here in the UK recently about a woman who sea swam really regularly but the shock of the water one winter day actually gave her temporary short term memory loss- she couldn’t remember getting to the beach or why she was in the water. Swim safe everyone!

    • Kim says...

      This actually happened to my dad a couple of times while skiing in really cold weather. The only thing the doctor could compare it to is that it occasionally happens to swimmers in really cold water. The brain is wild!

    • Kate says...

      Thank you for this tip! I am excited to try cold swimming but it does seem so daunting. But if I swim throughout the summer as usual and then just keep it rolling that would be easier!

  54. Sabrina says...

    I live near an Alpine fjord-like lake in Austria and last year when lockdown began I started cold water swimming/dipping in there. I did stop in October because it gets really cold and/or freezing but cold water swimming, usually alone, made lockdown feel better, just because as in the article it says – you cannot think about anything else whilst in there and the feeling afterwards, oh it´s indescribable! I really want to go there right now! (it´s snowing though, so I might as well wait a bit)

    • S says...

      Oh and if you want to do this: make sure to wear (specific) earplugs to not get surfer´s ear!

  55. baiyu says...

    There’s a brilliant book called ‘Taking the Plunge’ by Vicky Allan all about the therapeutic benefits of wild swimming. It’s really taken off in Scotland, especially as pools have now been closed for a year. People even break the ice to swim…

  56. Agnès says...

    Her photographies are so delicate, love them. Swimming in cold water is the best; I lived on an island for 5 years, in the west of France (so, cold), and the most powerful, funny, excentric, strong women were the ones who would swim every day (with or without suit), mostly, over 65!!

  57. Meg P says...

    Lovely photos and so glad Lucy found something that helps! It actually reminds me of that documentary My Octopus Teacher. I remember him talking about how invigorating and life-affirming the cold water was to swim in.

    I’m much too chicken I confess!

    • Heather says...

      My first thought was also of My Octopus Teacher. Finding so much tenderness in a freezing underwater forest. Such a gorgeous film.

  58. Randi says...

    Cold water swimming (kallbad) has been popular here in the Nordics for a while, but during the pandemic it really has exploded! Whenever I meet up with two of my friends at Lake Mälaren here in Stockholm, we are never by ourselves. There is something so comforting about this random, mostly female little community. The almost nakedness, the involuntary moaning and shrieking once the water has reached up to one’s neck (if you can’t or won’t suppress it), and maybe a longing for a moment of ‘different’ in these times of low spirits and same same.
    We’ve been swimming at 14 degrees Fahrenheit (someone had been cutting a large hole in the ice), we’ve been swimming in the darkness of Swedish winter night, only Orion and its fellow constellations sparkling up in the sky as if they’d decided to give a surprise party for us. We’ve been swimming while it was raining, and we will be swimming – what a treat – in bright midsummer nights.

    • Emie says...

      Wow, what a beautiful, evocative comment. Thank you for sharing this :)

  59. Anni says...

    In Germany we do the Kneipp cure. Wading slowly through knee-deep ice cold water. It is supposed to boost your immune system and also help with certain illnesses. Lots of fun for the whole family. These Kneipp ponds often are near hiking trails – nothing better than free your feet fron the hiking boots and get in the ice cold water. I agree that it makes you feel so alive. Can only imagine to do it with the whole body, wow!

  60. Shari says...

    Great post. At our local beach, for as long as I can remember, people (mostly retired), meet every morning to swim , summer or winter. They know each other , they look healthy , they look at peace. They look like a cool crowd. I think I want to join them….

  61. Sandra says...

    This reminds me of a recent Chicago Tribune column about people who swam all through the winter even though they had to chop away at the ice to do it! https://www.chicagotribune.com/columns/mary-schmich/ct-met-schmich-winter-swimmers-20210219-nunafztlbjdnbkayinvralfcia-story.html I live near Lake Michigan (Chicago ‘burbs) and I’m pretty much a landlover once it gets cold, but I have jumped into the Great Lakes a time or two in late spring when it is still pretty cold and it is invigorating.

  62. Alex says...

    I loved this book. The writing was so heartbreaking and captivating.

  63. El says...

    Cold water swimming is having kind of a moment– I swear it keeps coming up in podcasts, conversations, etc.

    If you’re cold water-curious, the shower is a good way to work up to cold water! That way you can turn hot water back on, step in/out of the water stream, etc. I concur, I feel such a rush of endorphins after cold swimming/showering– truly, I sometimes can’t stop giggling right after! It also makes me sleep so so well. :)

  64. Ashley says...

    The WSJ also did a story on cold water swimming and the mental benefits.

  65. Kat says...

    Thank you for this reminder of how enlivening it can be to go outside of your comfort zone! In massage therapy school, one of our homework assignments was to take a ten-minute cold shower. It was crazy and awesome! It really did make me feel alive in a way I didn’t expect.

    • Kate says...

      I’m going to try this!! I’ve been wanting to try this wild swimming trend but right now it’s impossibly cold here in Northern Canada. I’ll challenge myself to start with 5 mins in the shower :)

  66. Emily says...

    Oh! You should read Katherine May’s Wintering, which touches on the clarifying power of cold water swimming, alongside the natural process of wintering or withdrawing from the world in times of suffering. So beautiful. <3

    • Elise says...

      Excellent book and so useful during Covid era <3

  67. Anon says...

    There are lots of lakes near where I live. I used to go swimming late in the summer on rainy days when the water was quite chilly and the air rather cool… basically less than “ideal” swimming conditions. I would spend quite a bit of time in the water. I would walk for half an hour to the beach, swim and then walk home. I haven’t done this for a few years, but those swims will always stay with me as profound, exciting experiences that helped me know myself better. They were such exhilarating, affirming swims.

  68. Ellen says...

    Hm…I think there’s cold, and there’s cold. (I’m in Minnesota, where the lakes freeze over, and it can be dangerously cold to just be unclothed outside during the coldest parts of the winter…)

    • Hanna says...

      That’s true of hot too! (Don’t swim in Yellowstone springs!)

      My family is from Sweden and cold-water swimming is popular there, although you’re right that caution needs to be taken when it’s still very cold out. Definitely have to know your environment.

      But it can be incredibly vitalizing (especially followed by a hot tub or sauna). I recommend maybe giving it a try in your warmer months.

    • segrid says...

      Tell that to Jonna Jinton who lives in the Swedish lapland haha:
      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEDmZlVCCzc

      Also – love these photo’s! Especially the third one, huge sigh of appreciation. . .

  69. Tamara says...

    I’ve been cold water swimming with a few friends at a sacred river spot for the last few years now. It’s about a 45 minute drive so we do it a couple of times a month in the winter and several times a week in the summer. Then we sit by the river and drink tea and laugh and it feels amazing. I love it so much. I love everything about being in nature, even the cold and wet and uncomfortable. It’s so healing and feels like a birthright that was lost but but is being reclaimed.

  70. Kelly says...

    I have actually felt, what would best be described as, a craving for swimming in cold water. This story makes me feel like I must pursue. My soul must need refreshing.

  71. K says...

    I’m very happy for Lucy but I’m still deciding if I’d muster up the courage!

    I also thought of Wim Hof reading this.

  72. Becky says...

    The pictures are stunning

    • J says...

      I’ve always wanted to try this, but wondered about what happens once you get out. Are you chilled to the bone until you can get yourself home and into a hot shower? Is there somewhere to change? Does your wet hair drip down your neck the whole way home? The anxious side of me would need answers for everything before I gave it a try…

    • dubois says...

      Don’t get your hair wet and have hot tea or even better, broth, nothing too rich, in a thermos (or a jar wrapped in a towel :D )

      And you are not cold when you get out – that’s why this works – your entire body feels aflame with vitality and energy and warmth. It is the most invigorating thing ever.

      I haven’t done it in years but I am about to jump on the bandwagon because I know I will benefit. I live right on Puget Sound so now to find an good beach.

  73. You could also try submerging your face in a bowl of ice water or using ice packs it would have the same effect. It’s actually makes up the T of TIPP skills (https://manhattancbt.com/archives/1452/dbt-tipp-skills/) which says that by increasing your body temperature we decrease the intensity of emotion and helps us cope.

    • Rose says...

      Yes!! I was hoping someone would mention extreme temperatures as related to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy coping skills.

  74. anne says...

    The thing I was craving the most this whole past year was a place to swim. There’s not really any swimmable lakes near me (the chicago burbs), and getting to lake Michigan would have involved being around crowds at the beach in the city which freaked me out in the pandemic, and all of the pools were closed here. More than anything else right now I just need to be in some big water…. I’ve got my first vaccine shot on Friday, and hopefully by the time I’m fully vaccinated Lake Michigan will be free of ice and I can go dive in.

  75. Te says...

    This is seemingly a trend! We’ve been doing it quite a bit here with my buds in Canada, and have found it very joyful, even when it’s really cold – https://www.instagram.com/p/CMk3ekNMj6o/

    • El says...

      Swim by Annette Lees is another lovely, lovely read about outdoor swimming. NZ focused but still an interesting read for others I imagine. Lucy’s prints are very beautiful

  76. Denise says...

    Also, I should say, Lucy’s prints are gorgeous! Thanks for that arty eye candy.

  77. Anna says...

    I’ve been following Wim Hof and doing his breathing (11 mins and it’s amazing) plus trying to do cold showers! It really takes courage and mentally committing to them. But, wow, I feel amazing after the cold! He has a lot of really inspiring videos on Youtube and I liked his Goop segment on Netflix. The science behind what he does is so fascinating.

  78. Lucy says...

    Episode two of Gwyneth Paltrow’s Netflix show, “The Goop Lab,” is about this. It was pretty good!

  79. Angie says...

    These incredible photos are how i feel inside when I’m cold water swimming.

  80. Monica says...

    I *love* the cold (cold showers, cold swimming, cold walks). One of my favorite memories was spending New Year’s Eve alone in Canada a few years back. It was 2 degrees out and I just walked around a park for an hour. All I could think about was how cold I was and my breathing. My family and friends thought I was absolutely crazy, but I think that was one of the best days of my life, it kind of snapped me out of my depression, and I was SO happy.

  81. Jennie says...

    As someone who can barely bring herself to shower in lukewarm water (scalding hot, please!), I’m fascinated and impressed by cold-water swimmers. It was such a treat to hear Lucy’s perspective and live vicariously through these gorgeous photographs.

    For those looking for more cold-water swimming articles, I enjoyed this New Yorker article, which also features some lovely photos! https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2020/01/27/the-subversive-joy-of-cold-water-swimming

  82. Tiffany says...

    Opps… spelling error. That was supposed to say “ heart attack “. Hee hee. See even thinking about cold water makes me so flustered I can’t spell.

  83. Tiffany says...

    While writing this from under the warmth of my down comforter all I can say is “Umm no thank you”. My mind would only feel clear while swimming in cold water because my psyche would be screaming “ WHAT ARE YOU TRYING TO DO, KILL ME BY GIVING ME A HEART ATTACH?”. Bravo to those that can brave the frigid waters. Happy to cheer you on from my warm spot near the heater.

  84. Hillary says...

    I have such a girl crush on Lucy! I’ve been following her series of cold water swimming on Instagram and feeling so many things from her images – they are beautiful. So happy to read this feature today, loved it! XO

  85. Sarah says...

    On a recent episode of the podcast Forever35, Suleika Jaouad talks about how she has started doing cold water swimming with Elizabeth Gilbert!

    • VJ says...

      I was going to post exactly the same comment. Gorgeous and eye opening.

  86. Kirsty says...

    Oh! This reminds me of Ruth Fitzgibbons’ beautifully written memoir, I Found My Tribe. And yes, I am a cold water swimmer!

  87. Ali says...

    Wild swimming looks to be increasing in popularity. I grew up in a tropical climate, so the thought is rather dampening my cold-water ambitions. Where we live now (Europe), we havethese little rivers flowing down from the mountains through the villages, and in these little rivers are often hand-rails for people to slowly walk around in the icy water for a minute or two. There is often a sign with instructions. The steps should be stork-like (high knees) and slow, and afterwards, one should not towel-dry but rather swing the legs to dry while sitting. It is torture for me, especially in winter, but the locals, which now include my husband and children, are much tougher and profess pleasure even in – 20C. I do see the appeal and am considering (even as I cringe and quiver inside) a spot of lake swimming next winter. Who knows? Maybe I will, although just being a by-stander with a hot chocolate is a much more comfortable position…

  88. Denise says...

    I frequently do the cold shower in the Summer and it still amazes me how clarifying it is for my mind. I wish I lived near enough a body of water to swim regularly in nature, it seems like an excellent practice.

  89. Mary says...

    Love this post! Early last fall I went on a road trip across the northern part of the US and experienced the thrill of cold water swimming for the first time! It was life changing. I swam into lakes from the base of the Grand Tetons all the way to the Northwoods of Wisconsin. It’s such a beautiful way to truly be immersed in nature, and I agree with Lucy, it completely clears your mind!

  90. Sammi says...

    Wild swimming is having a moment here in the UK. I live in Wales & so many of my gal pals enjoy an ocean dip throughout the year. It truly is magical, especially when you go in with friends & have a warm flask of tea waiting for you afterwards.

    I read I Found My Tribe by Ruth fitzmaurice last year & it’s truly beautiful. Highly recommend to wild swimmers with big hearts 💗 https://www.penguin.co.uk/books/111/1112584/i-found-my-tribe/9781784705466.html

  91. Annie says...

    We do a “polar dip” in the Pacific Ocean every New Years Day. It’s the perfect way to start the year, screaming and laughing with a group of friends and drinking coffee with Baileys on the beach after. Also, the best hangover cure I know!

  92. Juulia says...

    What a beautiful place! I have never really liked cold water swimming, but it is very common here In Finland. I have tried a few times, but it never really made me feel as good as everyone tells it should. I live In the capital city of Helsinki by the sea, and many of my neighbors do this daily In front of our building. The views are nothing like pictured here of course, it is a city… But it seems to really work as an antidepressant, a shock to your body, but also mind. If the sea freezes over, someone makes a hole In the ice. I guess this last year has made it even more popular, with so little else we can do, and so many mental challenges each day.

    • Kate says...

      I guess you’re more suited for sauna, Juulia ;) And that’s quite alright!

    • Juulia says...

      Kate, thank you for your suggestion – unfortunately sauna makes me very dizzy (although of course we have a sauna in our apartment, and also a communal sauna in the building :) . BUT, after reading your comment, I did some research and realized this is because of my low blood pressure – I always knew that’s why sauna isn’t that good for me, but actually the same applies to cold water swimming! Now I know how to explain this aversion to my favorite neighbor when she asks me swimming next time. Maybe this would be interesting/important to know for others as well – you might want to be careful if you have low blood pressure, as cold water swimming lowers it even more.

  93. Hani says...

    Katherine May writes about this in ‘Wintering’, a book+author that seems 100% in CoJ territory. Have you had a chance to read/listen to it, Joanna?

    • Joanna Goddard says...

      not yet, but I’ve heard great things!

    • Kristina says...

      I was thinking the same thing. great minds! (also, I loved that book!)

    • Dana says...

      This is what came to mind for me, too! Katherine May was interviewed for an episode of the On Being podcast and talked about it more there, as well. Good episode, enjoyed hearing her perspective on the world.

      Cold water swimming does sound thrilling! I’ve only worked my way up to washing my face with cold water & doing a super fast cold rinse at the of a shower from time to time.

  94. Jennifer Park Cox says...

    Diane in Denmark on YouTube swears by it. They swim naked everyday rain snow sun ice. They don’t wear a “costume” ( their word for swimsuit) because it makes them very cold when they get out of the sea. She does it with her two besties everyday and they have hot tea in China cups afterwards! I wish I had a lake or ocean by me!