Cold Water Plunging and Swimming Safely

Suzie Dods hated swimming lessons when she was 8, her high school and college teams NEVER won (true) and yet 40 years later she is still swimming, loves the water, has traveled the world working for a swim vacation holiday company and just this past July at age 55 completed the “Triple Crown ” of Open Water swimming. She coaches and teaches swimming in and around the Bay Area and can be reached at

Suzie Dods plunges into the cold waters of San Francisco Bay.

A cold water plunge is a wonderfully fun and invigorating winter activity. There are hundreds of “plunges” around the world, especially on New Years Day or sometimes they are done for charity dares.

The question is always of safety. How do I prepare? What can I expect and how can I recover safely and still have fun?

First off, have a support team who knows you and who has the tools to take care of you if need be.

Be well rested, well fed, (though not over fed) and well hydrated, but not with alcohol. Those post NYD dips are actually not a great idea.

Rest assured you will NOT get hypothermic from a dip. You may gasp, you may feel as if your skin is burning and your toes and fingers may tingle , but you won’t get hypothermic.

Before you plunge, have warm clothes handy, that are easy to get into (no zippers or buttons) have a couple of towels, and a warm beanie type hat. Gloves are nice too or mittens. If you are planning on splashing around a bit some of those “instant heat packs” can be stuffed into your mittens for warming your fingers.

Take a deep breath and yell, scream, hum whatever as you run into the water. I do NOT recommend diving into cold water unless you are acclimated. It’s a recipe for disaster. Running in while yelling is fun and it is a way for you to exhale as you hit the water. If you are yelling or singing then you will exhale naturally, which is what you want to do. You do not want to hold your breath, that’s a bad thing.

If all you are doing is running in and out, that’s grand. When you get out, strip out of your wet suit and dry your body as quickly as possible. Think of it as a “race to get your shoes on.” Suit off, sweats on, shirt on, hat on, jacket on, shoes on, then mittens.

You may shiver and that’s a good thing! It’s your body warming itself up. Yay!!

Sip some warm liquid, NOT alcohol, hot tea, hot chocolate, hot coffee and just try to breath naturally. The rush you feel will be wonderful! Honest.

If you stay in and splash around a few minutes that shivering may last a little longer and while you are in the water, again… focus on breathing. Don’t hold your breath, think about yoga or running and EXHALE. You have to exhale to inhale…
Don’t spend more than 5-7 min in the first time,get out before you think you need to. You want to get out, wanting to get back in.

Believe me, you’ll want to get back in. It’s a natural high that is tough to replicate.