Warming Up After Cold Water Swimming: A Guide

Author: Indie Bornhoft

Warming up efficiently after cold water swimming is more important than it sounds. 

First of all, being deeply cold is not a very pleasant feeling. And not warming up properly after cold water swimming is incredibly unsafe if gone about in the wrong way. 

With the rise of cold water swimming groups, clubs and adventures. More and more people are taking the plunge and it is a very good shareable skill to know how to warm up well. We’ve all either been or seen the person who can’t warm up in the car park, is shaking to oblivion, and looks quite unwell and unhappy. 

Let’s avoid this nasty part of cold water immersion and get happy getting in and out of the water!

We present you with our top 11 tips for warming up safely after a cold water swim.

Man in changing robe after a swim


  1. Buy the right gear
  2. Prepare your gear
  3. Wear the right gear into the water
  4. Know your limits
  5. Hot drinks post swim
  6. Choose a location to change in
  7. Warm up slowly
  8. Dry is warm
  9. Physical & Mental Fitness
  10. Choose the world's warmest changing robe: The Vivida Puffer
  11. Ensure you warm up safely with a YUYU Long Hot Water Bottle

Woman changing in a poncho towel on the beach

1. Buy the right gear 

For starters we recommend you get prepared with the following cold water swimming gear:

  • a towel poncho to change beneath,
  • a changing robe to shelter you,
  • a beanie hat or neoprene hat to keep head heat in,
  • wetsuit gloves to keep your hands and fingers functioning at maximum capacity,
  • A long hot water bottle
  • and wetsuit booties to make sure your feet stay as warm as possible. 

2. Prepare your gear

Secondly, we highly suggest getting your cold water swimming kit ready the night before. You want to make sure you know where everything is, so you don’t turn up to the water's edge with two left feet of your wetsuit boots. Make an effort to fully dry your towel poncho before you set off, make sure your wetsuit isn't inside out. It sounds trivial, but any additional time wasted with your hands needlessly out in the elements fiddling with wetsuit zips or turning clothing the right way around is energy being wasted that could be used for warming up, and you’re pointlessly exposing yourself to the elements.

Woman changing into a wetsuit under a poncho towel

3. Wear the right gear in the water 

    Now you’re prepared on land, let’s get you in the water. The best way to ensure a good cold water swim with a super easy warm up is to wear the correct gear in the water. Firstly gain some intel on what temperature the water is before you go in, and plan how long you're aiming to submerge for. If it's sub 15 degrees, start with any time under 10 minutes and then build up gradually after each session. Sub 12 degree water feels much colder than 15 degrees, so it may be smart to wear a short wetsuit to protect your organs and give you that little bit more protection. Try the Vivida Ladies Linda Wetsuit.

    It may be wise for your first few cold water swims to wear wetsuit boots, wetsuit gloves, and a neoprene hat during your cold water swim. This will maintain your core body temperature at a higher level for longer, that you won't achieve if you go in a swimming costume alone.

    4. Know your limits 

    If you're a seasoned cold water swimmer your timings in the water will be able to be longer, as your bodily responses adjust to the changes in temperature over time. 

    If you’re a first timer, start small, maybe even just a few minutes. Make sure you’ve not skipped breakfast as calories = energy = heat. Stay close to the shore, with your feet on the ground and try to do the impossible and get out before you start to really feel the effects of the cold. This will make increasing your core temperature easier post cold water swim. 

    5. Hot drinks post swim

    Make sure you have a hot drink waiting on the beach for you. Flasks are a great way to keep the liquid at optimum temperature whilst you are in the water. There are mixed scientific views about whether hot drinks do you a disservice when you’re trying to warm up (by tricking your brain into thinking you’re warm so start cooling you down quicker - not ideal in cold water swimming situations) or whether they helpfully increase your internal body temperature efficiently. Touching warm cups with chilly fingers or holding it on your belly is a good way to superficially warm up the outer layers of the skin, which in turn will help you warm up overall. Just be mindful not to spill hot drinks if you're shivering and shaking too much. 

    6. Choose a location to change in 

      Choose a non-slippy, super sheltered, safe and ideally well-seen space to change in. Don't get changed on an overly exposed, risky, unsheltered cliff top, for obvious reasons. The more protection from the elements you have, the quicker you will become warmer.

      YUYU Bottle and Vivida Poncho Towel after swim

      7. Warm up slowly

        Does warming up slowly help? The answer is yes. 

        Cold water swimming can be invigorating and refreshing, but it can also be a shock to the system. Your body has to work hard to maintain its core temperature, which can cause your muscles to tighten up and become sore.

        Don’t go shoving your body into a boiling hot shower as this can make blood vessels open too fast and cause a sudden drop in blood pressure. This in extreme cases, could result in poor circulation for major organ groups and increase the risk of fainting or cardiac issues. 

        Instead, get dried and dressed as soon as you exit the water, into DRY layers. Using a YUYU long hot water bottle can also help to alleviate any muscle tightening symptoms by providing targeted heat therapy to the affected areas. The YUYU bottle can wrap around you, so you can also keep moving to regain temperature safely. 

        Whatever you do, don’t sit still: walk about to warm up. If you have the energy, some post swim star jumps, or beach sprints will jack the heart rate up and increase thermal production. 

        8. Dry is warm

        Changing into damp or wet clothes will not help you warm up after a cold water swim. The water molecules in wet clothes absorb more body heat from our skin, initiating a cooling effect on our entire body. It's better to put on one very warm insulated changing robe than lots of soggy layers.

        9. Physical & Mental Fitness

        Mental fitness is vital. Being mentally prepared for the shock of the cold is a foolproof way to not end up with problems out of the water. Having and memorising your plan of attack to warm up after your cold water swim will in turn make you achieve this goal faster, be prepared for any drawbacks and shift your brain into proactive mode. Reap the mental benefits of your swim in abundance if the worry about warming up after your swim is ticked off your mental list.

        Physical fitness is a big winner. Being as physically ready as possible helps perform in extreme weather. The fitter you are, the more your heart will cope with the temperature changes. The stronger you are, the more powerful your strokes will be if you get caught in currents and rips in the sea. Also, the stronger you are, the more you will enjoy your time in the water, because your brain can relax whilst your body does all the hard work it’s been trained to do. The stronger you are, the quicker your body will warm up!

        Two women hugging wearing puffer changing robes

        10. Choose the world's warmest changing robe - The Vivida Puffer.

          If you want the elite package for cold water swimming gear, you’ve come to the right place. Voted GQ’s most premium changing robe, The Vivida All Weather Changing Robe Puffer jacket is innovative in design, and staggering in performance. 

          The puffer is the warmest item you can put on post cold water swim to ensure a speedy and comfortable warm up. The honeycomb lining wicks water away from the body and cloud fill insulation mimics the properties of down warming the body fast and efficiently. No other changing robes on the markets have achieved this yet. 

          The puffer jacket pockets are deep and internally insulated to warm up your hands and fingers faster. The hood is drawstring and peaked to shelter the face from the elements. And all the zips have thick tabards to make them easy to use with cold fingers. 

          It's so efficient, it feels almost like a cheat method of warming up after a cold water swim. 

          Explore the trio of earthy colours range, and warm up quicker than ever before.

          YUYU Hot water bottle and Vivida Poncho Towel after swim

          11. Ensure you warm up safely with a YUYU Long Hot Water Bottle

          One of the benefits of using a YUYU Bottle is its unique design. Unlike traditional hot water bottles, the YUYU is long and slim, making it easier to wrap around different parts of the body to provide maximum comfort and relaxation. This makes it an ideal choice for targeting specific areas that may be affected by the cold water, such as your back, shoulders, or legs. YUYU Bottles are also the eco friendly option, made from Grade A Natural Rubber and all YUYU materials are ethically sourced.

          Another benefit of using a YUYU long hot water bottle is its versatility and you can use it either hot or cold. Post swim, the YUYU Recovery collection is a great choice as they are designed to deliver the ultimate relief post-sport or post-workout through ice and heat therapy and come in two different collections. 

          Why not add YUYU into your post-swim routine - use the code YUYU10 for 10% off your order!

          Shop the YUYU Collection

           Contributing Author: YUYU

          Indie Bornhoft is a personal trainer and watersports coach, who encourages her clients to make movement their mantra. She has coached every ability in wakeboarding, paddleboarding, SUP fitness, and windsurfing for over ten years, and is highly qualified in all disciplines. Discover more about her drive to just keep moving and be inspired to connect to the raw power of body & spirit through fitness.