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How to warm your cold body up after open-water swimming

It’s important to warm your body up safely after open-water swims. Here's our step-by-step guide, plus some essential items of kit to help get you warm again


Numb fingers and feet like blocks of ice can make getting dressed after a cold swim tricky. Luckily, there are several things that can you do and wear to make getting toasty warm again easier. 


First up, when you arrive for your swim, being organised makes a big difference. Wrap your clothes in a hot water bottle and make sure they’re neatly folded and in the order you want to put them on.

Tuck them all inside your bag and not only will they feel good when you wear them, but you won’t be fighting with inside-out tops and tangled joggers. On that note – think plenty of baggy warm layers that are easy to get in to.

Skinny jeans, leggings, skimpy undies and similar are just a recipe for frustration when you’re cold and clammy. And if you’re leaving your kit out in the open, make sure it’s in a waterproof bag or covered with a waterproof robe as a sudden shower could soak your kit otherwise.

Get ready for the afterdrop

After you finish your swim, you might be a little wobbly from the cold, so move carefully but with purpose. Now is not the time for chatting and faffing, as the afterdrop usually hits about 10 minutes after you exit the water, so use this time wisely!

First up, get in to shelter (if available) so you’re away from any wind chill, then strip off all your wet kit. Standing on a waterproof changing mat will help keep your feet off the cold ground.

Next, get yourself dried off. We like to use a towelling poncho as you can pull this over your head on top of your swimsuit/jammers and get quickly dried without worrying about modesty, then strip the final wet layers off underneath.

Remember your extremities

Get a big, woolly hat on to reduce heat loss through your head and to cover wet hair. Gloves are a good shout as well as thick, woolly socks and easy-to-put-on footwear, such as Crocs (sorry!),or pull-on insulated boots.

Your hands and feet will likely be numb for a little while, so the more you can do to help them the better, especially if you’re planning to drive home.

Invest in a changing robe

Most outdoor swimmers will find a changing robe invaluable so if you haven’t already used it to get changed within, now is the time to put it on as a final layer over everything else. Yes, you might look a bit odd, but just think how warm you’ll be!

Once you’re fully dressed, move around a bit to help your body warm up and sip a warm drink (it won’t make any difference to your core temperature as some think, but it will be comforting). A sugary snack will help give you a boost, too.

Have a warm bath or shower

The age-old advice was that you shouldn’t get into a hot bath or shower after a cold swim, yet while we wouldn’t recommend boiling hot water (which can make you feel light-headed at the best of times), we consulted Professor Mike Tipton who told us a warm bath or shower could actually help you feel better more quickly… so long as you’re not dangerously cold/hypothermic.

In which case, gradual rewarming under supervision is crucial. So if you’re lucky enough to have access to a warm bathroom post-swim, then head there before you get dressed.

Make time post-swim

Having followed all the steps above, you should be feeling pretty cheerful and much warmer by now. One final note, though, make sure you’re feeling fully recovered before trying to drive home, so allow time within your swim slot for warming up.

It’s all part of the fun of winter swimming, so don’t skimp on the post-swim chat, cake and star jumps… You’ll probably be in the water for a much shorter period of time than in the summer, so it all works out the same!


Top image credit: Remy Whiting