Swimming in colder water can be exhilarating, shocking, the best feeling ever. However is can also be dangerous, understanding what to expect and how you body might react is a good place to start. What you wear is a personal choice, however wearing a wetsuit during colder temperatures can help you to stay in the water for longer. Other top tips include get prepared before you swim lay out your clothes for afterwards in the order you will need things. Wear 2 hats to swim in, neoprene hat, gloves and socks will also help.
Cold water shock - stage 1 (0-3 mins)
Panic, heart rate increases, hyperventilation, blood pumps faster and possible heart attack. Try not to panic, stay clam and breathe if it feels too cold get out have a minute to calm down and try again, this can sometimes help make the water feel warmer. Don't be afraid to say no that's too cold for me, we are all different.
Cold water shock - stage 2 Muscle response (3-30 min)
Loss of strength, loss of endurance
Inability to swim back to the side if you have swum some way out. Using a tow-float, should you get into difficulty you will have something to hold on too. Help make you more visible. Avoid swimming solo, at the very least have a spotter who can raise the alarm should something happen.
Cold water shock - stage 3 - Core response (30 mins +)
Core body temp drops below 35℃, hypothermia, disorientation, confusion, fall unconscious. Swimming at a supervised venue, provides you with a level of support and backup but it won't prevent the possibility of something happening. Help is on hand and a quick response should result in speedy recovery.
When a swimmer enters what we call a euphoric state that is often a sign that it is time to get out (Wow this is amazing I could stay in for ever). Swimming front crawl will keep you warmer because you are moving faster, but it is harder to put your face in too cold water, just keep trying.
No hard and fast method, what works for you. Some say that taking cold showers builds up your tolerance to cold water, not for me though. After swimming get changed straight away don't stand around chatting, wear lots of thinner layers. Take a flask - hot drink ready for afterwards, think about using a hot water bottle for the drive home. Don't put the heating on in the car full blast. Take a brisk walk before driving home better yet go with a non-swimming friend, partner and get them to drive you home.
After drop phenomenon is a real thing - your body's core temperature continues to cool even after you have gotten out of the water. So stay safe, if in doubt don't go out, always let someone know where your going and estimated time of arriving home.