Friends, family, and regular Building Boats readers are likely familiar, in one way or another, with Whyte Nynsha. Frequently seen in the warmer months, a bit more elusive in the winter.
Summer is past, fall is slowly fading, and outdoor pursuits in the Rogue Valley are involving more layers of lycra and Patigucci. For most Ashland locals swimming in a nearby lake, river, stream or mountain creek is joyous summer treat. Feeling the fresh water on the skin, a respite from the heat, a new and exciting way to enjoy mother nature.
As fall makes its way into the valley we make our way into jackets and jeans, less time spent dodging the heat and more time seeking it, which all means less time enjoying those calm, cool lakes, and rushing, rapid rivers around us.
No reason to stop though. Whyte Nynsha is planning to rally, at the very least, once a month, to make an honest full body dip-and-swim in a nearby body of water. Could be a lake, river, ocean, waterfall… Running naked in the rain doesn’t count. I’m sure most of you have at least one September swim in the books. The weather is looking, decent enough, this weekend to get October in. And before or after there is always Bikram Yoga of Ashland to get you warmed back up.
I encourage all ya’ll to get out there, get your bike, run, hike or E.R.M. on, get the sweat on, get the clothes off, the Whyte Nynsha on, and crush it out Polar Bear style. If you need more reason than for the pure joy and slight craziness of it read some info I pulled off the on-line, check out reason #2, turns out there is some E.R.M.ing involved in mid-winter Whyte Nynsha outings.
1. Boosts your immune system
For your body, a sudden and drastic change in temperature constitutes an attack – as anyone who’s ever fallen overboard in British waters will concur. And, whilst “attacking” your own body may not sound like a good thing, there is no harm in keeping it on its toes. In fact, quite the opposite.
Scientists from the Czech Republic immersed witting subjects in cold water for one hour, three times a week and monitored their physiology. They found significant increases in white blood cell counts and several other factors relating to the immune system. This was attributed to the cold water being a mild stressor which activates the immune system and gives it some practice.
2. For an all-natural high
Winter swimmers talk a lot about the ‘high’ they get from cold water – a feeling of wellbeing that’s so encompassing that it becomes quite addictive (who doesn’t want to feel truly good, at least once a day?) The cause? Endorphins.
Endorphins are the body’s natural pain killers and, in the case of a cold dip, it uses them to take the sting away from your skin. So, to get high on your own supply, all you need to do is jump in a river.
And if you think that sounds dangerously close to the pleasure/pain barrier then you’re probably right. The two other primary causes for endorphin release are pain and orgasm.
The cold will also stimulate your parasympathetic system, which is responsible for rest and repair, and this can trigger the release of dopamine and serotonin. These neurotransmitters are a vital part of keeping us happy and low levels of them are linked with depression. Couple this effect with the endorphin rush as you take the plunge and it should make for a warm glow and a wide smile when you re-emerge.
3. Gets your blood pumping
Being hot brings blood to surface. Being cold sends it to your organs. Both extremes work your heart like a pump. That’s why the whole sit in the sauna, roll in the snow, sit in the sauna thing makes people glow. But why is increased blood flow good for you?
Well, it helps flush your circulation for starters, pushing blood through all your capillaries, veins and arteries. It will exfoliate your skin and flush impurities from it, thus helping your complexion (firm-bodied women of all ages around pool sides say it stops cellulite). Evidence also demonstrates that your body adapts to the cold with repeated exposure and this may improve your circulation, particularly to your extremities – no bad thing in the winter months.
You could get these benefits by switching between the hot and cold taps in your shower (or the sauna, snow, sauna thing) but that doesn’t sound nearly as fun as quick dip in your local pond followed by wrapping up warm afterwards.
4. Improves your sex life
The suggestion of a cold shower might bring forth images of hot-headed young men trying to quell wanton urges but research paints a different picture.
In a study with a similar format to the one described above, participants took daily cold baths and were monitored for changes. In addition to some similar results to their Czech counterparts, these researchers also found increased production of testosterone and oestrogen in men and women respectively.
In addition to enhancing libido in both sexes, these hormones also play an important role in fertility. In fact, one technique recommended for men looking to fatherhood is to bathe their testicles in cold water every day. Whatever your procreative desires, a dip of a different sort certainly could add an edge to your sex life.
5. Burns calories
We all know that swimming is great exercise but there are some extra benefits from doing it in the North Sea that you just won’t get from a warm wade in the Med.
Swimming in cold water will make your body work twice as hard to keep you warm and burn more calories in the process. For this sort of exercise, fat is your body’s primary source of energy and the increased work rate will increase your metabolism in the long run.