January 30, 2024 5 min read

We sat down with Charlotte Lodey, Life Coach and Blue Health practitioner to discuss the cold water craze, how it continues to grow and what you can do to get involved.

What motivated you to start cold water swimming, and how has it impacted your life?

I grew up watching my Grandad and his friends swim off Battery Rock in Penzance, where a seal would join them every day, rain or shine! Over 30 years ago this tradition was very much ingrained in our Cornish community and it feels really good to continue my Grandad's legacy.

I started cold water swimming more seriously about five years ago when I ran SUP wellness retreats and saw the positive effects water had on participants' mental health. I realised that this deep biological connection with water was so powerful I wanted to try everything to feel the benefits. I started swimming in Newquay harbour with a small group of friends and over time it grew and grew, we helped so many people battle loneliness and isolation as a result of covid through our little swim get togethers. That’s what I love the most about cold water dipping, its ability to bring people together, no judgment just fun, laughs, energy and good times. I’ve met so many incredible people, watched it grow in popularity and I qualified as one of the few UK accredited Blue health coaches, inspiring others to feel the benefits too.


How important is mental preparation when entering cold water, and what strategies do you use to mentally prepare?

Mental preparation is crucial when entering cold water, as it can help manage the sympathetic nervous system which is initially engaged when we enter the water. I like to imagine myself entering the cold water calmly. Focusing on positive outcomes and the benefits of the experience, I know I am going to feel epic afterwards!

I think the most important factor is your breathing. Practice deep and slow breathing to help calm the nervous system and take it out of fight or flight. Controlled breathing can reduce anxiety and improve your ability to adapt to the cold. Anything we do in life that involves stepping out of our comfort zone will result in a reaction from our body that feels like danger. Cold water helps us to practice managing that response, so we become better at dealing with it on land too.

I also set realistic expectations. If one day I have all intentions to go but I can only last a minute or so, I listen to my body. You have to push through the restricting thoughts but you don’t have to be in pain!

What benefits, both physical and mental, have you personally noticed from regularly engaging in cold water swimming?

Cold water therapy, offers several physical and mental health benefits. When exposed to cold water, blood vessels constrict, reducing inflammation and muscle soreness, that’s why you see a lot of athletes and dancers taking ice baths after sport or performances. Cold exposure can also trigger the release of endorphins and norepinephrine, improving mood and mental alertness. Most people when they come out of cold water feel energised, happy and smiling with a sense of achievement.

The practice of cold water immersion helps to understand how to regulate your nervous system, to recover quicker from stress and anxiety. This is done from slowing down your heart rate and respiratory rate to manage the cold temperatures. I also have personally noticed that my tolerance of the cold has improved since I started swimming. I no longer have such bad circulation in my fingers and I feel the cold less than I used to.

Over the last few years where I have been doing it more and more, I have a deeper sense of gratitude for the environment around me. I feel more emotionally connected to nature and live more in the moment as a result. Research suggests that people who swim in cold water are more likely to engage in environmental discussion and climate activism as they become aware of the damage that is being done to the sacred places they love to swim. Many swim groups now hold regular beach cleans, spreading the message within their community.

"I have a deeper sense of gratitude for the environment around me"

What are the essential pieces of gear that you believe every cold-water swimmer should have?

 It’s important to know that this hobby is non judgmental and open to anyone. There is no expensive equipment you need in order to participate. There are a few things I would recommend that may help you enjoy the experience. If you have bad circulation and are new to cold water, I suggest getting a pair of swim gloves and boots made of thin wetsuit material. If you are swimming in open water get a neon tow float and cap so you are spotted by other swimmers, surfers or boats.

The most important thing is make sure you have a large towel and lots of layers to change into, especially a wooly hat. The heat escapes from your head the quickest so get that on straight away. Large changing coats definitely help to keep the heat in or a blanket that you can wrap around to help warm you up gradually. A reusable cup with a hot drink in or a hot water bottle is also a great added bonus!

Do you have any advice for beginners interested in cold water swimming? (are there any precautions / preparation needed)

Try joining an online facebook community that regularly swims so you have the support and guidance for your first experience. There are some great UK based ones such as the Blue Tits and Blue Balls. They are extremely inclusive and welcoming. Also check out the Outdoor swimming society for tips and education around open water swimming.

Choose Safe Locations and use designated swimming areas or controlled environments like cold plunge pools to minimise risks associated with natural bodies of water. Have someone nearby to monitor your cold water immersion, especially if you're new to the practice.

You have to know your limits. Cold water therapy is not a competition, pay attention to your body's signals. Everyone is different, if you feel any sensations change in your body, then exit the water. Don’t stay in longer than necessary, it will make it harder to warm up and you run the risk of hypothermia.

If you are new to the practice then start small, maybe acclimatize with cold showers first and with short amounts of time in the plunge pools or bodies of water.

If you have any pre-existing health conditions or concerns, consult with a healthcare professional before incorporating cold water immersion into your routine.

Remember that individual responses to cold water can vary, so it's essential to prioritise your safety and well-being.