Cold Water Dipping in Port Philip Bay
Lately, I have been dipping my body, without a wetsuit, in Port Phillip Bay. Elwood, St Kilda and when not in a lockdown, further afield Sandringham and even Point Londsdale.
Hearing all the health benefits of cold water immersion, I was curious. Before, I thought winter swimming was ludicrous, and I didn’t understand why someone would torture themselves in cold water in winter. Why would they do that to themselves?
I started hearing from my Remedial Massage clients reporting the many benefits of cold showers or alternating hot and cold temperatures. It was boosting energy, improving mental health, & a great way to start the day!
I was getting curious, the name Wim Hof kept being thrown around, and then I watched that beautiful documentary ‘My Octopus Teacher'. Again the cold water immersion made references to changing the emotional state and craving the cold water.
I have always been an ocean girl; I am a Scorpio, a water sign, after all. My conditioning was that swimming was for warm days and in spring and summer only, remembering that I would jump into cold icy water no problem just for the sheer joy of it without fear as a child.
In mid-November 2020, an old childhood friend I connected with through our lockdown visited and suggested a swim in the Bay. They were committing to weekly swimming in the Yarra Valley, in the icy Yarra River. A weekly swim helped with a shift in a new direction in their life. They wanted to share this feeling with me.
I was intrigued and felt brave to try. I walked into the crispy water with resistance, the waves that are usually absent whipped us both up in the first couple of minutes and dumped us both on the sand before I could change my mind.
Who could have imagined that was even possible at Elwood beach, typically so flat and still, a paddleboard haven? It was unbelievable and hilariously funny.
It was so great to laugh out of lockdown and feel so happy.
Laughing, I jumped up and enjoyed and felt alive, enjoying the energy required to jump around and enjoy my bravery in my first adult cold water swim.
What amazed me is how amazing I felt the rest of the day.
I felt focused and enjoyed my day, craving healthy food and generally getting through my day with ease.
It’s months on, and winter has come. I am weekly swimming or dipping and committing to having it part of my week. It is easing my muscles from my work and dancing. It’s also reducing oedema I can sometimes get from standing for longstanding long hours.
I am happier and healthier because of it.
Benefits of Cold Water Immersion
Studies have shown cold water helps to boost the white blood cell (leukocytes) count because the body reacts to changing conditions.
A natural high
Coldwater swimming activates endorphins created by the central nervous system and the pituitary gland.
This chemical is what the brain produces to make us feel good during activities and is a fantastic natural pain reliever.
Improves your circulation
Coldwater swimming flushes your veins, arteries, and capillaries. It forces blood to the surface and helps to warm our extremities.
It reduces stress
Coldwater swimming places stress on the body physically and mentally. Many studies have identified the link between cold water and stress reduction.
Coldwater can help you to become calmer and more relaxed.
It is becoming very social and a great way to connect with the community
At sunset in Elwood, St Kilda, Brighton and all along the Bay, more and more people are celebrating the benefits of cold water swimming-or in my case, dipping.
Tips for trying it that helped me
Grab a friend
Be brave and don’t overthink it
Think benefits over the discomfort
Have a long swim jacket-Speedo do a good one-to through on after
Go at sunset or sunrise and admire the beauty of Port Philip Bay and city views.
If your feet, ears and hands get cold, you can get coverings to make that part easier.
Commit to trying it once a week for four weeks and evaluate how you feel
Enjoy a hot shower or bath post-swim.
Get a casual $13 pass at St Kilda Sea Baths-The lifeguard will give you a wristband, and you can go from the sea to the hot spa and steam room.