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Benefits of Cold Water Swimming and the Wim Hof Method

by Michelle Moroney(more info)

listed in yoga, originally published in issue 256 - August 2019

I had wanted to be a daily cold-water swimmer for a long time before I mustered the courage to start. I talked about it, I researched it, I even started cold water showers. I knew it would be hard. I also knew it would be great. I wasn’t wrong on either account.


Michelle Moroney on Pier
Michelle Moroney on Pier


In March 2017 off a long and lonely beach on Ireland’s wild Atlantic coast, it all began. A group of us huddled on the promenade in dressing gowns and towels shielding ourselves from the wind, giddily undressing in the harsh winters morning. Our pale skin glowed against the soft light. We took the first plunge. The first of many.

Many people who know what we do say that they could never, they don’t deal well with cold. The only difference between those of us who swim and those who don’t, is that we do. It’s pretty simple, and it’s changing our lives.

I can only speak for myself when I share the benefits I’ve experienced, yet, I know that we are all sharing this together, as a group.

I started to notice that I was feeling more alert, had better energy, felt less stressed and wasn’t getting sick. I began reading online to see if I could find any research on the subject and it turns out there are scientific studies on cold-water immersion showing the positive effects it has on the immune system. It seems that all over the world, people are turning to the cold to get sick less, reduce muscle inflammation and recover from sport.

Cold Water immersion is great for circulation, producing brown fat (white fat bad/brown fat good) and flushing out the lymphatic system. There is a lot of research and information emerging on how immersing ourselves in cold water is also good for the mind, mental health and depression. Especially a natural body of water like the sea, river or lake. The ocean contains every trace mineral we need to balance ourselves physically and emotionally. Our body will always seek to find equilibrium with the body of water around us so in essence when we enter the ocean we become the ocean.

For me the personal benefits are on par with the physical benefits:

  • I’m bonding with the best kinds of people - A little connection a lot of time. I’m a busy Mom, with 3 boys and a growing business. I don’t have as much time as I once did to socialize, meet new people and make friends. Sometimes parenthood can be lonely. Over all those swims a strong and beautiful bond is forming with each other and I will be eternally grateful for this;
  • Facing my fears. Even in summer when the waters are at their warmest, getting straight out of bed and into the wild ocean is a herculean transition;
  • Every day on the final approach to the shore my mind questions my sanity. On the days with lots of weather when the tide is low, it can seem damn right outrageous. Yet in we go. One thing is for sure, we never regret it. Every day it is hard. Every day I face my fear. And every day I conquer it. This is making me stronger;
  • I feel supercharged – I feel I could take on the world after a sea swim which is good if you could see my life some days;
  • It’s a bit wild and crazy. This is always welcomed; life is too short to be taken so seriously all the time. There is a lot of laughter, shouting and joy experienced with the cold water.


Womens Swimming

Swimming at Michelle Moroney's Cliffs of Moher Retreat

If you want to read some of the science around cold water immersion then check out WimHof (The Ice Man) and read about the medical studies he has done. He endorses the idea that the comfort is killing us and that by not challenging the parts of ourselves that can adapt to extreme conditions and discomfort  we are growing weak. He has dedicated his life to this and his body of work is known as the Wim Hof Method which combines cold exposure, breathing practices and mindset. I started to do his breathing practices with my daily swims and I immediately noticed the benefits and it took my cold water experience to a whole new level. I resonated with this method so much that in 2018 I became a fully qualified Wim Hof Instructor.  Sharing this part of my life has given me so much and I love how people taking control of their health, connecting deeply to themselves and feeling more alive.


WimHof Method –, also on Instagram and Facebook

I Found My Tribe (Book) – Ruth Fitzmaurice

#risefierce – Our Instagram hashtag for our local swims


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About Michelle Moroney

Michelle Moroney is a senior yoga teacher and certified health and wellness coach who runs her own successful retreat centre, Cliffs of Moher Retreat, one of Ireland's leading yoga destinations Passionate about helping people reconnect to their bodies, Michelle adopts a holistic approach to wellness which encompasses diet, positive thinking, movement and time spent in nature. Michelle swims daily in the Atlantic Ocean and has recently qualified as a Wim Hof Method instructor. 

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