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So just think about these water temperatures for a moment and you may start to appreciate how cold 4c and below is. We can truly call this an extreme sport.

Extreme, yes but also exciting and exhilarating. The feeling of anticipation and not  a little apprehension before entering the water, combined with the feeling of joy and contentment on leaving the water is quite amazing.

It is difficult to comprehend the feelings associated with this extreme sport but next time you are outside on a cold day, say the air temperature is about 5c, think about what winter swimming could be like, bearing in mind that water robs the body of heat about 30 times faster than air.

I have an SAS survival book and it says WARNING COLD WATER IS A KILLER ! This is undoubtedly true which is why great care must be taken if you intend to pursue the sport of winter swimming.

Winter swimmers are not crazy, in fact their bodies are tempered or hardened somewhat against cold water by training and they know their limits as well as the power of mother nature.

The first thing to remember is that strange as it might seem, winter swimming does not begin in the winter. Hardening takes place all year round and its not simply a case of diving into extremely cold water in midwinter.

If you want to take up this extreme sport, you must first be examined by a doctor to ensure your heart is in good condition as this is the organ that is placed under the most strain when swimming in cold water.

The next step is to begin training – this means hardening the body. You can start by taking cold showers and swimming in open water during the summer. As the temperature of the water decreases so should the length of time you are swimming for. In mid winter when the water temperature is constantly below 4c you should spend an absolute maximum of 22 minutes swimming. This length of time is only reccommended for strong swimmers, athletes and the very experienced – remember COLD WATER IS A KILLER !

The most important qualities in a winter swimmer are to respect your own body and its limits and to respect the power of mother nature. Whilst toughness, endurance and stamina are vital qualities for this extreme sport, winter swimmers are not primadonnas trying to outdo each other. Modesty is welcomed and respected.