I’ve just spent several minutes in the privacy of my own kitchen recounting to my slightly less than interested husband the current noises that I make when getting into the cold water. Guttural primeval sounds that begin in the lower throat, that tumble with a growl into my mouth to arrive out into the air with an irritating whine. He looks at me with that ‘what on earth are you doing?’ response. I try to explain that making these noises is a sort of part of the swimming experience. That it is something undertaken as a matter of course when submerging the body into cold water. “It’s almost unavoidable” I tell him, “It’s not only me”. I receive the ‘if you say so’ look.
As it appears to have hit a particular low point this week in sea temperatures, a record 3C on Karen’s submerged magic greenhouse thermometer, I feel that a little primal groaning is not out of place. I have to say that when I saw the said thermometer reading I was convinced that it must be under reading, but it was also reported by other swimmers on the Island too (a shout out to the thermometer duck that one swimmer tows behind her!). Plus, even the Bramble Bank website readings were at 4C! I’m pleased to say that as I write we are experiencing an almost tropical rise to 5C so things are looking up.
I do wonder if, as the temperatures return to something a little less frosty, the noises might lessen. Although I appear to have perfected the primordial grunt, Karen has also excelled in producing similar sounds whilst swimming. Her sounds however involve much more ‘huffing’. Loud panting breaths that sound almost pornographic. Heard on a misty day along with the gasps of mild pain and discomfort, people could wonder if she was either in the early stages of labour or the final throws of ecstasy. Neither of which are conducive to a relaxing daily swim or the enjoyment of those dog walking.
I’m also not sure if any of this is very Wim Hof (even if I always find myself associating Hof with ‘huff’…!). The bearded Mr Hof has famously developed a methodology that will make people ‘happier, healthier and stronger’, and there are many people who have positively gained by following his programmes and ethos. In summary – “The Wim Hof Method is a simple, yet powerful method, based on the foundation of three pillars; Breathing, Cold Therapy and Commitment. It’s the combination of these three elements that makes the Wim Hof Method uniquely powerful” (Wim Hoff website).
I like to think that making our own archaic noises orally is inline with some of Wim Hof’s practice and that we are also tapping in to our ‘age old survival mechanisms’… but maybe without the beard.
I ask Karen a question about something as the water surrounds our shoulders and her response is “just…. wait…. a minute…..” as she controls the huffing. We grunt and mumble for a short while and then move into laughs and giggles, before heading off towards our swimming goal. It’s funny, but all too quickly the noises calm and the breathing evens, and the cold is forgotten… well the cold is accepted. I think making these instinctive noises is something very natural. There are few public opportunities where making random, elemental noises is generally acceptable, so I feel we need to embrace our inner ancient groans. It really is after all perhaps just part of swimming in colder water?