Useful Tips on Cold Water Swimming in Lake Zurich
Cold Water Swimming in Lake Zurich
With all the gyms currently shut due to the pandemic and most if not all swimming pools too, many people are looking at different ways to exercise. One topic which hit the headlines in Zurich recently was “Open Water” or “Cold Water” Swimming in the lake! Even my local paper interviewed some brave souls who overcame the snow and the ice to plunge into the depths of Lake Zurich for a short dip and they ran it as a front page article.
Several of my friends both in Zurich and around the lake have been indulging in the sport – so of course, I had to have a go too! Weirdly though, it is quite addictive and the more often you go, the easier it becomes as your body acclimatises. 🙂 Initially the water always feels cold, but the trick is not to dive in suddenly – simply walk in gradually, then start swimming vigorously (without going mad), so that your body gets used to the cold. Luckily Lake Zurich is quite shallow in many places around the shoreline which makes it possible to enter slowly. If you are just starting, it’s ideally best to begin in the spring or autumn rather than in the winter when the water is coldest.
Don’t Overdue It
Another tip if not to overdue it, especially the first few times. If you can only manage 30 seconds that is perfectly fine! I went swimming in the lake a number of times in the middle of January when it was mild and sunny just for about 9 minutes and I also went during the week when we had snow and found it a lot less pleasant and I only lasted 3 minutes, even though the water temperature was similar. However, the general rule is to spend 1 minute in the water per degree of water temperature. When you are just starting out, it is probably best to half this, once you are used to it you might like to stay longer, but listen to your body.
Try To Go When The Air Temperature Is Not Too Windy or Cold
Another tip is to avoid swimming in the lake when it is windy or the air temperature is very cold as you can end up with your teeth chattering uncontrollably and losing a lot of body heat very quickly when you come out. It is also not that pleasant.
Be safe and Try Not To Swim Alone
Swim with a buddy or a group of friends. It is much safer as well as much more fun – and you’re not so focussed on the temperature. Open water swimming can be dangerous. So only ever swim where it is safe, and check both the shoreline and in the water. Look for boats, moorings etc. and make sure that you can enter and exit the water quickly and easily.
Wear The Right Kit
A lot of heat is lost through our heads so it’s a good idea to wear a hat. You could either wear a swimming cap (or even two), or maybe a beanie or woollen hat. A wet suit, either long or short, is an option, but you could just wear neoprene gloves and boots. I certainly always wear something on my feet for protection from sharp rocks.
Don’t Swim After Drinking or On A Full or Empty Stomach
Obviously it goes without saying that you shouldn’t swim after drinking, or if you are starving hungry, or have just had a big meal. Always allow an hour after eating, before going in the water.
Why Go Open Water Swimming In Lake Zurich
When you come out of the water it feels as if you are tingling all over (a little bit like “needles” – but in a more pleasant way!) and your skin maybe quite red. You should dry yourself quickly and wrap up well and if possible have a hot drink from a vacuum flask. The best bit is going for a warm shower or bath as soon as possible afterwards as it feels as if your whole body is being massaged. However, don’t immediately jump under a hot shower as this can be dangerous, start with the water luke warm and only slowly increase the temperature. Afterwards you really feel full of energy and totally invigorated and ready to tackle anything. You will probably be on something of a high so this is the time to convince your friends to join you next time, or at least try to convince them you are not completely nuts. 🙂
Check The Water Temperature
As I write this in late January the temperature of Lake Zurich is currently 5 degrees, whereas Lake Walensee is an icy 4 degrees and Lake Maggiore in Ticino is a balmy 7 degrees. Incidentally, you can find the temperature of all the lakes in Switzerland here.
So if you fancy trying out Open Water or Cold Water Swimming in Lake Zurich, why not try it out with a friend or two and see how you like it? Maybe once the pandemic is over, set up a club or MeetUp for people to join and swim together?
Book: Wild Swim By Steffan Daniel
You might also be interested in the book “Wild Swim” by Steffan Daniel. Aimed rather at Summer swimming, it offers suggestions for swimming all over Switzerland. By using code NEWINZURICH you can get 10% off this book (and any others you may like from Bergli) as well as free P&P on all orders over CHF 30. See the book here.
Disclaimer: Please note all the tips above do not constitute medical advice but are simply anecdotal from my personal experience. If you have any medical conditions or any concerns whatsoever, please consult a doctor before going cold water swimming.
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