Vicki McLeod will be presenting her pictures of “wild swimming” at an online women’s Zoom event, YakFest, on April 5. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

Vicki McLeod will be presenting her pictures of “wild swimming” at an online women’s Zoom event, YakFest, on April 5. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

‘Wild swimming’ offers a cure for the COVID-19 blues

Nanaimo blogger Vicki McLeod among a growing number touting the benefits of a cold water plunge

The cure for the COVID-19 blues was as close as a dip at the nearest beach for one Nanaimo woman.

A healthy, strong swimmer, McLeod was invited by to try a full-moon swim at a local beach in late November. The idea gave her pause.

“I’d only lived here for about six months when COVID hit, so it’s been difficult to meet new people and develop community,” McLeod said. “I had never really considered swimming in winter and only very occasionally gone swimming outdoors at night. Honestly, at first it seemed like a crazy idea to me, but I decided ‘What the heck,’ and took the plunge.”

McLeod said the first time she ran into the water and immediately ran back out.

“I am sure I wasn’t in for more than 30 seconds,” she said. “I was amazed at how shockingly cold it was. Despite the cold, there was something really beautiful about being in the sea at night, and even though my fingers and feet were particularly painful and numb I felt remarkably good afterward.”

Now, when McLeod wants to chill out, she takes a polar bear approach. While the idea of “wild swimming” — swimming in any natural body of water – isn’t a new concept, taking to a lake, river, pond or the open Pacific in the dead of winter or even early spring may sound extreme.

But still, there’s a growing interest in year-round wild swimming, including winter swimming in northern climates.

McLeod connects with other experienced swimmers, meeting up a couple of times a week – masking up and keeping their distance. McLeod is building up her time in the water and her tolerance for the cold, staying in for up to 10 minutes.

According to seatemperature.info, the Pacific temperature in Nanaimo ranges from an average of seven degrees Celsius in the winter to an average of 17 degrees Celsius in the summer.

“Throughout the year, the water temperature in Nanaimo does not rise above 20°C/68°F and therefore is not suitable for comfortable swimming,” the site says.

That’s putting it mildly. Wild swimming is only recommended for experienced, healthy swimmers with company. Individuals with health issues, such as heart conditions, blood pressure problems or asthma should consult their physician on the advisability of wild swimming.

“Tolerance is very individual, however, and cold-water swimming, or dipping, is definitely a shock to the system,” McLeod said.

At any time of year, wild swimming can be dangerous, McLeod noted. In the winter, cold and hypothermia present heightened risk.

“It’s very important that you know how to swim, for example, and that you know your limits,” she said. “A wild swimmer needs to be aware of things like tide, waves, current and water temperature. Generally, it’a good practice to swim with a buddy, and certainly do not swim alone at night.”

A healthy respect for the environment and those that share it is also important, she added, citing the time she had to avoid a raft of sea lions.

In addition to a bathing suit, there is other recommended gear. Neoprene gloves—available at sporting goods stores or surf shops—help, as do water shoes or diving boots, especially on rocky beaches. Cover-ups for changing to get warm and dry immediately afterward are important, and swimmers beat a path to their car right away, she said.

Just a few months into her new passion, McLeod swears by the touted benefits of cold-water swimming: burning calories, boosting the immune system, increasing circulation, reducing inflammation and offering a natural high through endorphin release and the painkilling effect of the cold.

“For me, the most significant impact is on my mood,” said McLeod. “I find a winter dip brings me completely into the present moment, pushing all other concerns and worries out of my head. I become immediately and exquisitely aware of my breathing, my limbs and the water and sky that surround me. This is a huge positive boost that last for hours afterward.”

McLeod’s blog can be read here. To learn more about wild swimming and to get important safety information and other tips, visit this website.

For more news from Vancouver Island and beyond delivered daily into your inbox, please click here.

RELATED: Cold water swimming a morning ritual for Oak Bay crew

RELATED: Victoria swimmer ends Strait attempt early

authorNanaimoPORT ALBERNI

Just Posted

Outdoor vendors at the Cloverdale Flea Market are seen in this bird’s eye view image from the flea market’s Facebook page.
Cloverdale Flea Market to reopen

Market to open June 20 after being closed since Nov. 2020

Ian MacDonald, spokesman for Surrey Police Service. (Submitted photo)
Surrey Police Service launches public consultation campaign

This is to help the SPS form its first strategic plan

A new driver was fined for excessive speed early June 6, 2021, after being pulled over on White Rock's Marine Drive. (White Rock RCMP Twitter photo)
Pricey penalty for new driver clocked at 112 km/h in White Rock

19-year-old Burnaby man’s vehicle impounded

teaser photo only.
Surrey ‘POP!’ series promises ‘Performances Outdoors in Parks’ this summer

Ticketed concerts, theatre shows and other events start July 9

TEASER PHOTO ONLY
Surrey RCMP looking for missing boy, age 13

Steven Vail was last seen at 8 a.m. after arriving at Frank Hurt Secondary but did not show up for his 8:30 a.m. class.

People watch a car burn during a riot following game 7 of the NHL Stanley Cup final in downtown Vancouver, B.C., in this June 15, 2011 photo. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Geoff Howe
10 years ago: Where were you during the 2011 Vancouver Stanley Cup Riots?

Smashed-in storefronts, looting, garbage can fires and overturned cars some of the damage remembered today

A worker, at left, tends to a customer at a cosmetics shop amid the COVID-19 pandemic Thursday, May 20, 2021, in Los Angeles. (AP Photo/Marcio Jose Sanchez)
Half of cosmetics sold in Canada, U.S. contain toxic chemicals: study

Researchers tested more than 230 commonly used cosmetics and found that 56% of foundations and eye products, 48% of lip products and 47% of mascaras contained high levels of fluorine

White Rock’s Marine Drive has been converted to one-way traffic to allow more patio space for waterfront restaurants. (Peace Arch News)
Province promotes permanent pub patios in B.C. post-pandemic plan

More than 2,000 temporary expansions from COVID-19 rules

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Lake City Secondary School Williams Lake campus students Ethan Reid, from left, Brenden Higgins, Ty Oviatt, Kaleb Alphonse, Nathan Kendrick and Landon Brink with RCMP officers Const. Nicoll and Const. Stancec. (Photo submitted)
RCMP thank 6 teens for helping prevent forest fire in Williams Lake

The students came across fire in a wooded area and used the water they had to try and extinguish the flames

There is an emergency shelter near the Golden Ears peaks. (Facebook/Special to The News)
Hiker fogged in on Golden Ears, spends 2 nights

Talon Helicopters, Ridge Meadows Search and Rescue bring him home Monday

Annamie Paul, leader of the Green Party of Canada, speaks at a news conference on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, on June 10, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
Green Leader Annamie Paul facing no-confidence motion from party brass

move follows months of internal strife and the defection of MP Jenica Atwin to the Liberals

Tulips bloom in front of the Supreme Court of Canada in Ottawa, Thursday, May 10, 2018. Day two of a full week of scheduled hearings will be heard in Federal Court today on a case involving Indigenous children unnecessarily taken into foster care by what all parties call Canada’s “broken child welfare system.” THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
AFN slams Ottawa for ‘heartless’ legal challenge of First Nations child compensation

2019 decision awarded $40,000 to each Indigenous child removed before 2006

A 34-year-old man was arrested Monday after Transit Police found him riding a SkyTrain with a shotgun in the front of his sweatpants. (Transit Police)
SkyTrain passenger arrested, charged for concealing shotgun in his sweatpants

Codty-James Gray, 34, was found with ammunition, brass knuckles and knives

Most Read