Wild Swimming Women

Wim Hof may be on to something. After the initial, often cold, shock of plunging into wild waters - the physical, emotional and sometimes spiritual benefits take over and it becomes, for some, a year-round habit of the best kind…
 
Curious about the benefits of wild swimming and how to get started, we chatted to two wild swimming women who have become hooked on the practice.

Chloe Hodgson from Chloe's Pilates loves to combine Pilates with wild swimming in the English countryside and VK Armstrong Solli began swimming in the fjord outside her home in Norway during lockdown and hasn't stopped the Sunday ritual since - even when she has to break the ice…


 

Chloe Hodgson, Oxfordshire, UK

"I first began being interested in wild swimming or 'cold water therapy' as I like to call it, at Cornbury Park with my lovely friend Fi Howden. We host ‘Pilates & Wild Swim’ mornings there and jumping in the cold lake after a dynamic Pilates class early in the morning is one of the BEST things!

If I had a lake near me I would swim every day but I have a big paddling pool in my garden and have a cold dip most days! If not a cold shower! I always swim at Cornbury when we do our events too. And I found a gorgeous little spot in the river running through Charlbury the other day with my husband and 2 boys. We took a breakfast picnic and all had a dip in our underwear!

I wouldn’t say I’m a ‘swimmer’! I would say I am a cold water dipper! I like to immerse my body in cold water every day. In January I had to break the ice in my paddling pool to get into it - ice cold but amazing!

For me, cold water therapy is a solo experience, I meditate/do my breathwork especially when it is ice cold. But when we swim in the lake at Cornbury it is a fantastic community feel!

The worst part of the experience is the anticipation! The best is when you get out! My whole body tingles and gives you a huge energy boost/sense of empowerment!

In terms of rituals, I like to do some form of exercise before (Pilates or a dog walk) and to do my breathwork practice during the swim. Then a cup of herbal tea or coffee afterwards!

It's definitely helped me stay calmer in everyday life but also in stressful times. I also really feel the cold in winter, I slightly dread how cold I feel in the winter! But jumping into the cold most days has made me embrace the cold now!

I don’t think you can get much better than Cornbury Lake! But I also love the Cornish sea! Being be the sea makes me feel incredibly happy and free. The wildness of it, the expanse of it...

My advice for anyone curious about wild swimming? Whatever you do, don’t forget to BREATHE!! For me its all about breathing!"


About Chloe:
I have recently re-launched my online Pilates subscription that offers high-quality, dynamic classes that are fast and effective. I teach at Bamford, Daylesford Farm, on the Deliciously Ella app, and private clients at my home reformer studio. Rosemary Ferguson and I have also just released a family recipe e-book full of yummy, nutritional recipes. For the last 3 years I have hosted ‘Pilates & Wild swim’ events at Cornbury Park Estate (where Wilderness festival is held).

 



VK Armstrong Solli, Asker, Norway

"In 2020, we moved to our current house which is situated right by the sea. Generally, I had always been a bit of a coward when it came to swimming in cold water. No problem in the warm summer waters of the Mediterranean, but under 20 degrees Celcius. No way! So, I decided to challenge myself. At the time we moved, it was the height of the pandemic. In Norway, we were only allowed social contact outside. With this in mind, I decided to invite a small group of friends every Sunday at 12. The idea was to have a swim together from the jetty and enjoy each other's company.


We started in the late summer of 2020. It was bliss. We frolicked around in the warm summer water without a care in the world. With no idea of what was in store. Every Sunday at 12 the gang arrived, with big smiles. 


By October the water temperature was already under 10 degrees celcius which I think classifies as winter swimming. At this point we felt like true Vikings and we were enjoying our weekly get together so much we were determined to make it through the winter! 

Up to now swimming together had been easy and relatively comfortable. However, the onset of the Norwegian winter gave us a slight sense of trepidation and fear mixed with excitement. The first winter swimming season had begun. We would meet on the jetty at 12 on the dot. We trudged through the snow in our winter boots. Warmly wrapped up in several layers of wool covering our bikinis, wooly hats, sheepskin gloves, socks and a huge winter coat. Temperatures were as low as -15 degrees C that winter. Some Sundays we even had to hack holes in the ice. The idea of stripping off and getting into this freezing water was excruciating.... and it was!!
 

One by one we would get undressed. Slowly and sheepishly we would step down the ladder into the ice cold water, cheered on by the gang watching on the jetty. The first thing that happens is you lose your breath, feel a surge of panic and get right back up on that jetty as fast as you can! So in the beginning we only managed to stay in the water for a few seconds. However, one of the girls in the group had done this before. She had also read about Vim Hoff's breathing techniques. Gradually we learnt to stay in the freezing water until our breath stabilized and we managed to endure the 'initial' pain. The resulting feeling was euphoric. Hysterical laughter on the jetty afterwards and a huge high!

We have now been doing this every Sunday for over two years and we are simply addicted. The benefits healthwise are without a doubt a stronger immune system. Fewer colds and illnesses. However, the psychological benefits seem greater. There is a very positive sense of accomplishment and togetherness. We all feel an endorphin high similar to having done a long run. We also feel it resets our body and nervous system. Stress, worries and lows from the previous week are flushed away and the new week can start afresh.
 
Anybody curious about winter / wild swimming should just do it! Get a group of friends together and get out of your comfort zone! As long as there are no underlying illnesses or heart problems this is something which will make you apprehensive at the start but elated afterwards. A true Viking!


About VK:
British/ Norwegian mother of three (or 5... if husband and dog are included!)
Have previously worked for many years as a primary school teacher. Currently on a break. Author of English textbooks at Primary School level (Explore).
Live by the sea in Asker near Oslo and loving winter/wild swimming.