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Top 5 ways to warm up after a cold swim

Just braved a cold water swim? Here are our top 5 ways you can warm back up, from the basics to the innovative to the ingenious!

1. Winter swimming coats

A simple and obvious one, the traditional deck coat which has been a staple for pool swimmers for years has undergone a comfort and warmth revolution for open water swimmers, led by the brand Dryrobe, which has become an almost generic term for swimming coats.

Swimming coats not only keep you warm from head to toe, but they also dry you and provide privacy as you get dressed. Under your coat, layer up, including gloves, beanie and socks/Uggs for maximum warmth.

We received great advice from a swimmer suggesting you leave your coat (or towel) in the direct sun, if out, so that it warms up while you’re out swimming.

See our article on the best winter swimming coats for winter swimming.

Dee Greenwood from Melbourne sporting her Dryrobe winter swimming coat (and a nice hot cuppa).

2. Thermos of hot tea/coffee (or water)

There’s nothing better than a hot cuppa after a swim, and having your favourite brew waiting there for you ready to warm up from the inside beats waiting in line to order from your local cafe.

If you just fill the thermos with hot water, you can make up your drink at the beach and use the remaining hot water to tip down your wetsuit or warm up your feet!

Taking it one step further, the Coolangatta Cobia’s have ‘Soup Sunday’, where members of the group take it in turns to bring a nice warm soup to share after their swim (just don’t go tipping it down your wetsuit).

Thermos and insulated flasks come in all shapes and sizes.

3. Foot mat

Stepping out of the water onto cold sand and concrete is not fun, and hinders the speed at which your feet warm up.

Swimmers use a range of mats to keep the ground warmer while getting dressed, including old bath mats, cut-up yoga mats, artificial/fake grass or simply a second towel.

A swimmer uses a purpose-made artificial grass mat to keep her feet warm as she gets dressed after a swim.

4. Hot water containers

Finding hot water at your local open water swimming spot is like finding hen’s teeth.

So, in absence of publicly accessible hot water, you can bring your own.

Swimmers have become very innovative with this, using hot water bottles, milk bottles, petrol cans and even esky’s to lug their hot water to their swim and have it stay warm until they require it.

Pairing the hot water container with a large bucket you can stand in will help with keeping feet warm as well as allowing you to recycle the water for multiple container showers.

If you’re wearing a wetsuit, a hot tip is to pour some of the hot water down your wetsuit to start with as you get your gear together, this prolongs its use and then you can strip the wetsuit and finish off with the last of the water on your skin.

To get every little bit of energy out of your hot water container, wrap it up with your clothes/towel to keep them nice and warm too.

The Shark Island Psycho Swimmers warming up with their petrol cans post-swim.

5. Portable hot shower

If you’re after something that better resembles a hot shower at home, buy yourself a battery-operated camp shower and pair it with your hot water container. For maximum use time, take a large bucket and recycle the water.

You can also use camping solar showers, but instead of letting the sun heat the water, fill it with hot water at home and hang it somewhere at the beach (or have a friend hold it in return for some of its goodness), just be mindful of the envy of other swimmers…

Suzette Sutton demonstrates an ingenious way to warm up after a cold water swim.

Other swimmer-submitted ways to warm up

  • Use ‘Hot Hands’ toe or hand warmers
  • Use heat massage oil and rub it fast on the entire body
  • Go for a post-swim run

See this post on the Ocean Swimming Enthusiasts Facebook Group for the latest warming-up ideas.

  • Written by Ocean Swims on 7 July 2022
  • (Updated on 3 August 2023)



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