REMEMBER the Ready Brek ad? The boy on a winter’s morning, protected by a glowing heat shield, happily on his way to school.

That’s the closest I get to describe the way it feels after a cold water
dip.

It starts with a brisk walk then a quick change. Into the water, down and under to the shoulders. The shock of the cold hits, sharp intakes of breath, keeping arms and legs moving.

Then, in a matter of seconds, the shock lifts. The cold water is bearable and fresh, even pleasurable. Relax and enjoy.

Then it’s time to get out, get dried and dressed quickly and warmly for coffee and crumble. My energy level goes up. My mood lightens and the Ready Brek glow kicks in.

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The health benefits of cold water swimming are nothing new, of course. Wim Hof, known as the ‘ice man’, talks about the shock to the system being a way to ‘reset’ our minds and bodies.

That makes sense to me. You can be raging, the weight of the world on your shoulders, but as soon as those shoulders are under the water, your worries are shocked out of existence as your body responds to the cold attack. Adrenaline pumps. Blood pumps.

Hof likens this to an immune booster jab. Endorphins are released and we feel good.

It all makes perfect sense. Except the water can be very, very cold and, well, it’s not the Med, is it? It may be OK on a hot summer’s day, but that’s only a few times a year. Going for a dip in October? You’ve got to be joking!

That’s what I thought too. Through lockdown I walked around my patch, saw people occasionally in the rivers and streams, but didn’t think of going in myself, until I was encouraged to by Martyn Broughton of Rhondda Dippers.

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It’s made a big difference over the months I’ve been doing it. Not just the dipping, but the being in nature, beside water, among trees and birds and insects, in the wind and rain.

I feel we’ve separated ourselves from nature too much. We go from centrally-heated homes to air-conditioned cars and offices, wrapped in waterproof coats and hats.

Weather is something we watch on TV rather than experience. Standing at the bus stop, moaning about the rain, a woman once told me to stop complaining because “our skin’s waterproof, isn’t it?”.

I’d better end with a few words of precaution: don’t jump into cold water if you’ve got any underlying health conditions. At least, not before seeking medical advice. And it is worth stressing how important it is not to spend too long in the water.

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Martyn recommends no more than one minute per degree. So that’s no longer than 10 minutes in a Rhondda dipping pool at the moment. And wrap up warm afterwards with a hot drink. Happy dipping and peace to all.

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