Preparing for the Crisis Icebreaker Swim

In collaboration with realbuzz.

Cold Water Swimming Tips - A Pretty Place To Place, London Running and Fitness Blog

You do some funny things when you’re a couple of thousand words into an essay, funny things like deciding jumping into a freezing swimming pool would be an awesome idea…I think maybe I’d been indoors for too long and it was my body saying it needed fresh air! Whatever it was that got me thinking it would be a good idea doesn’t really matter because I’m doing this to support a really important charity - Crisis.

There is no reason why anyone in a country as affluent as the UK should be homeless, but around 160,000 households in the UK are, and rough sleeping is forecast to rise by 76% in the next decade unless the government takes action to tackle it. I’ll be really honest, I’m not convinced that’s going to happen, at least not in a meaningful and effective sense. Which is why I support Crisis. Crisis works side by side with homeless people, and these people influence the charity’s campaign for permanent change. In the short term Crisis supports people out of homelessness and gives them access to basic services, in the long term it lobbies for change. Crisis also gives homeless people a place to go for Christmas, which can be the start of their journey out of homelessness. A place at the Christmas table is £28.18, and I’d like to make sure a few people can celebrate and access everything Crisis has to offer. Want to support me? You can find all the details here.

Cold Water Swimming Tips - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

So. The Swim. The Icebreaker is a pretty simple idea - jump in an lido and swim a length, no big deal. Except the water will be cold, really cold. Brockwell Lido reaches highs of around 8 degrees this time of year. I’m no stranger to outdoor swimming, but normally I swim in warm places, not South East London in the middle of winter! With this in mind I thought it might be a good idea to hit up my expert contacts at realbuzz and get some tips so that I am as prepared as possible to brave the cold for Crisis! Here’s what Adam Walker, realbuzz swimming expert and the first person to swim the Ocean’s Seven, had to say…

swim somewhere safe

It seems obvious, but making sure you swim somewhere safe is crucial. Brockwell Lido has lifeguards, which is really reassuring as while I’ve been cleared to swim following a head injury I still need to be supervised pretty closely! However, if you’re looking to swim in the wild then one of the biggest battles will be ensuring that wherever you plan to swim is safe.

Adam suggests that “there are often many lakes and open waters which have organised sessions and have suitable safety in place. I would recommend you swim in one of these locations and there will be other like-minded swimmers there who you can buddy up with and swim in pairs or a small group.” Adding that “Not only is it a good safety measure but it makes training easier and is an opportunity to make new friends too.”


As I’ve mentioned, the thing that sets this event apart is the cold. It’s cold by the side of the pool, it’s cold in the pool. I’m anticipating the water is likely to feel colder than it actually is and that it might cause me to catch my breath, and while I don’t have time this time around Adam suggestion that “by doing small frequent dips you will soon find how much easier and longer you can comfortably swim each time and you will feel more confident too.”

He adds, “on entering the water, I recommend wetting the face and back of the neck, which will prime the body for entry as these are sensitive parts of the body. As you immerse yourself up to your shoulders, I suggest exhaling on entry as the ribcage contracts it will make it easier to get a second breath without gasping, particularly if it is very cold.”

after your swim

There is nothing worse than feeling cold all day, and when you leave the water it’s important you get warmed up – quickly and correctly. Adam suggests that “the first thing to do is dry your swim hat and put a woolly hat over the top to keep the heat in. Only take the swim hat off when you have suitably warmed up to your normal body temperature.

“When getting changed, dry your feet off and put your socks on first,” Adam adds. “Once you are fully dressed, taking on a warm drink can also help insulate your core, however be warned if you have been in colder water, what seems lukewarm to other people can be volcanic to you when your body temperature has dropped.” Sounds like a good excuse to head to the Lido Cafe for post swim coffee and cake!

* This post is in collaboration with realbuzz.