As I briefly mentioned in my first blog post, cold water swimming has a magical effect on your body. This magical effect is scientifically referred to as “hormesis” that results in you ACTUALLY craving the cold water shock. Bare with me as I clumsily try to explain this. Hormesis is a natural biphasic (two phased) response to an extreme environment or stressor. When you expose your self to these elements in small controlled doses, you adapt to gain physical and psychological resilience, but over expose and your performance can be inhibited. Cold water shock is a type of hormetic stress which your body is engrained to transition into due to years of evolutionary development to protect ourselves from external threats. We can make our selves more tolerable to minor irritants by having a rein on our stress response – it’s called cross adaptation!
The list of things you can gain from cold water swimming goes far beyond physical benefits, but to kick off the list, it massively strengthens your immune system!! Fact, “being a habitual sea swimmer decreases your probability of contracting a respiratory virus by 40%. Consistent cold shock can increase immune cell numbers, in particular Cytotoxic T cells responsible for killing cancer cells & virally infected cells” because your body has entered a state of shock it is preparing to mend a wound and fight off infection. And it can help make your exercise prior to cold water shock more beneficial and speed up your bodies repair mechanisms and increases endurance. Prettttty cool.
Psychologically, you enter a state of euphoria due to the release of the stress hormone cortisol which surges through your body even after the initial cold water shock. I literally leave the sea buzzing. There is also a massive increase in neurotransmitter norepinephrine. This diagram describes how this effects the body.
Lastly, but by no means least, I would like to draw on a speech called “You’re it” by Alan Watts. Here he discusses energy, both spiritually and physically. The recycling of energy (when physical matter dies it decomposes and is up cycled to produce new life) basically leans towards reincarnation. Once our life ends and we cease to be humans, our energy is transferred into another form. Furthermore he suggests that we should learn to flow like water and float like clouds so that we can live harmoniously with nature and help our potential transition into another physical state when we die. I find this thought comforting and grounding and try to remind my self of it when I swim.
I hope this makes you want to jump in the sea as much as it does for me…