Unpopular Opinion: Winter Swimming is the Best

Photo Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons, Famartin

By Ryan Gibbons, Swimming World College Intern.

The pop culture view of swimming is nothing short of summer utopia: flips under the sun while diving off of a burning hot pool deck in the warm summer air. Yet, as the competitive swimming world knows, the sport doesn’t take a break for the cold – in fact, the long winter months make up a significant portion of the annual swimming cycle.

Fortunately, as the temperatures plunge deeper than a diving well, the sport doesn’t diminish to a bleak existence: in fact, winter swimming – bear with me here – just might be the best part of the swimming year.

Sure, those poolside lemonades might not still be in the picture and the freezing hair might make it hard to believe, but the cold half of the year might be more than just a survival stretch for tired swimmers. Here’s why single-digit temperatures might just be the apex of our “summer” sport.

Breaking Out the Parkas


Photo Courtesy: Rob Schumacher-USA TODAY Sports

This is a big one: the seasons might not always render themselves available to breaking out the warm, fuzzy parka, but when it does, it goes all out. Nothing beats being wrapped up on deck or after practice in a nice, cozy jacket. Sure, outside of the lining, the air might not be primed for comfort, but on the inside…

Cooling Off After Sets


Photo Courtesy: Brian Jenkins – UVM Athletics

Even if the coldest days might block this beautiful part of a practice, hopping out (either in a chilly outdoor pool or a cooler indoor pool deck) of a tough set with a beating heart and a burning face to be met with the calming, brisk air of winter can be mind-blowing. It just doesn’t compare to sitting in the stifling summer heat – especially for outdoors swimmers, who can do nothing more than bask in the swampy lagoon that the pool has become.

Hot Chocolate on Deck

Something about sitting on deck after practice or during a meet with a steaming container of hot cocoa brings out the best in the sport. Even though it might go against the common ways of the sporting world (and probably isn’t recommended at high-level competitions), the sweet elixir of warmth is a delicacy only practical during the fine winter months.

Snowed-Out Practice

It might not happen very often, and many southern swimmers may never experience this joyful bliss, but no summer day on the beach could ever come close to scraping the experience that is a cancelled practice on a wintery day.

The Nice, Warm Pool Deck


Photo Courtesy: Emily Grigsby

It’s not always easy to imagine the pool as a warm place when diving in early in the morning. The freezing water seems to be overpowering. But in the dead of winter, stepping out of a freezing, snowy world into a warm, humid building is somehow a relief. It might not be the most exciting part of the winter swim season, but when the outside air becomes unbearably cold, the pool can become almost a beacon of warmth in the dark of winter.

Bundling up After Practice

The after-practice feeling is already a great one. The after-practice feelings wrapped in countless blankets, hoodies, and fuzzy socks is an unbeatable one. Nothing beats being surrounded by warmth and coziness in the midst of a blustery world, slowly recovering from a tough workout. This can become a blissful out-of-body, mind-numbing experience for any tired swimmer.

While the sport might not lend itself to most as being appealing in the cold of winter, the darkest months of the year may just be the best for swimming. Approaching the season with a positive mindset instead of dreading the blustery air can transition winter training into an exciting, effective and invigorating period of competition.

All commentaries are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of Swimming World Magazine nor its staff.


  1. avatar

    Go to Western State University in Gunnison,Co for real cold training.

  2. avatar
    todd everly

    winter training sucks wym hahaha