The trail to the water is treacherous. The snow has coated the ice making it slippery underfoot. It’s 7.45 am and darkish, however my buddy Vicky and I’ve head torches and the moon is brilliant.Our stroll – previous to lockdown 2021 – is thru the woods and down the trail to the sting of Threipmuir reservoir within the Pentland hills, simply south of Edinburgh. It’s inconceivable to inform the place the water begins as the whole lot is roofed in a thick layer of snow. And the snow can be coming down in earnest, touchdown on our eyelashes and into our dry luggage, as we unpack and begin to undress.As soon as stripped to our swimsuits, neoprene boots, gloves and woolly hats, we strategy the ice. A pickaxe makes little impression to start with, however we proceed with one among us utilizing the axe whereas the opposite smashes away with boots and strikes big chunks of ice with our palms. It’s fairly a exercise and appears so ridiculous that we snort till now we have tears rolling down our faces.Q&ASafety adviceShow• Preparation is essential as ice-bathing can probably be a harmful pastime within the UK, as we don’t have locations, resembling Finland, the place there are 260 winter-swimming centres, which regularly embrace altering services and saunas – in addition to particular entry and exit factors within the ice. 
• Ice-bathing should all the time be approached with warning, by no means alone, and having danger assessed the placement first. Acclimatise to chilly water rigorously, retaining your dip brief and warming up rapidly afterwards with layers of garments and a scorching drink.  • Moving into to very chilly water (usually lower than 10C) may cause numbness and ache, significantly within the extremities, such because the palms and ft. Neoprene socks and gloves may also help defend palms and ft. • The Out of doors Swimming Society has recommendations on how one can acclimatise to chilly waterAfter about 5 minutes, we begin to make headway, working as a workforce to create a bit of plunge pool. Once we visited two days beforehand we have been capable of clear an extended swimming channel, however at this time the ice is simply too thick. A flock of Canada geese fly previous, skimming the highest of the ice, and a bullfinch hops across the shoreline, its pinkish plumage the one color seen on this white panorama. Lastly, now we have cleared sufficient ice to swim.Wendy and Tracey courageous the icePreparation is essential as ice-bathing can probably be a harmful pastime within the UK, as we don’t have the infrastructure of locations resembling Finland, the place there are 260 winter-swimming centres which regularly embrace altering services and saunas – in addition to particular entry and exit factors within the ice. Right here, we regularly have to look to extra distant spots with a view to discover ice, which provides an enormous aspect of danger to the method.It should all the time be approached with warning, by no means alone, and having danger assessed the placement first. Acclimatise to chilly water rigorously, retaining your dip brief and warming up rapidly afterwards with layers of garments and a scorching drink.I decrease myself down into the 0.8C water till my shoulders are beneath the floor, and attempt to calm my respiratory and convey my coronary heart fee down as I take in the shock of the chilly. Though I’ve swum via 4 winters, my physique’s automated response to the intense chilly remains to be highly effective.I attempt to stay calm, swimming just a few strokes and making an attempt to keep away from the ice shards, which might reduce. Regardless of having gloves and socks, my fingers and toes are are numb, my physique sending all accessible warmth to my core. I really feel completely alive and exhilarated, although. However there’s a effective line between enjoyable and hypothermia, so we tear ourselves away because the daybreak gentle turns the mountains pink. Newcomers ought to keep within the water for 2 minutes most.Vicky, the author’s buddy, takes the plungeThen it’s a race to heat up, utilizing chilly, muddled fingers to place socks on high of socks and extra layers than you think about doable, pouring scorching drinks from flasks, doing star jumps and squats to get the physique warmed again up. Although the huge rush of power and unbridled pleasure far outweigh ideas of frozen toes.As we’re packing as much as depart, we hear stomach laughs and other people approaching via the snow, after which encounter three ladies armed with an axe and a rolling pin to proceed what we began. Because the hilarity of the second hits them, Wendy Masterton tells us: “We’ve been cold-water swimming with ice across the edges earlier than however that is the primary time we’ll really expertise breaking the ice with a view to get into the water.” Out of doors swimming has seen a dramatic rise in recognition over the past 12 months. As swimming swimming pools closed as a consequence of Covid restrictions and holidays have been cancelled, many individuals turned to their native seaside, river, loch or lake to swim. And plenty of have continued, regardless of the reopening of some swimming pools throughout summer time and early autumn. The Out of doors Swimming Society (OSS) has seen web site site visitors enhance by 46% to 785,000 distinctive customers and membership enhance 36% to 136,000; its Fb group has grown by 73%.It is the proper exercise for a life below the pressures of a pandemicKate Rew, OSSIn addition, native wild swimming teams have reported to the OSS growths in membership of their Fb pages of between 50% to 500%. Open water lakes are additionally reporting an enormous enhance in guests .“Out of doors swimming is now a part of the UK psyche, a part of our love of free-spirited journey,” says OSS founder Kate Rew. “Persons are on the lookout for train and journey nearer to house, hundreds have made this their time to embrace rivers, lakes and the ocean. For some, it’s about self-sufficiency and stoicism: the proper exercise for a life below the pressures of a pandemic. I believe others are winter swimming to realize a excessive that we will’t get anyplace else proper now.”A research by Dr Chris van Tulleken and Dr Mark Harper, revealed by the BMJ, found that “common open-water swimming leads to a post-swim ‘excessive’, triggered by the discharge of beta-endorphins, dopamine and serotonin. Moreover, facial immersion in chilly water stimulates the vagus nerve, leading to an anti-inflammatory response.”‘Similar time tomorrow?’Ice swimming, as soon as solely tried by just a few hardy souls, has been dominating Instagram feeds this winter as extra swimmers hunt down the intense chilly. Claire Williams started outside swimming at Wardie Bay, Edinburgh, in Might after dropping her mom to dementia“Out of doors swimming has helped me massively, the individuals I’ve met, the chums I’ve made and in addition simply the peace I’ve discovered from being within the chilly water,” she says. “With the brand new analysis suggesting cold-water swimming wards off dementia, I’ll by no means ever give it up. I solely want my mum had been round to get pleasure from it with me.”Cassandra Barron had her first ice swim at Threipmuir reservoir earlier this month after taking over swimming within the sea at Wardie Bay in the course of the spring lockdown.“I’ve swum day by day in January thus far and needed to push myself additional so I had my first exhilarating ice-swimming expertise this week,” she says.In Scotland [as in England], we’re nonetheless capable of train open air inside our native space with one particular person from one other family, so outside swimmers who dwell close to water are capable of meet with one other particular person throughout this time, offering a lifeline for individuals who swim to assist cope with the stress of the pandemic.It is perhaps excessive however immersing your self in icy water is a superb method to replenish with endorphins, get a nature repair and have an exciting journey with out having to journey.• The OSS’s recommendations on acclimatising to chilly waterTaking The Plunge by Anna Deacon and Vicky Allan, is revealed by Black & White publishing. Comply with Anna on Instagram at @wildswimmingstories