Sunderland-based open water swimming social group, Iceguys, aims to provide men the opportunity to give cold water swimming a try alongside a welcoming group of other likeminded people.
Iceguys founder, Chris Nicholas, said: “We’ve set up the Iceguys North East group to encourage men to give cold water swimming a try. Cold water therapy can benefit us in many ways, from physical health to mental health, as well as the friendships that form from the shared experience of open water swimming.”
Nicholas established the group with the aim of creating a space in which men could come together in an environment that tests both their bodies and minds and that, in turn, will foster a supportive atmosphere.
“It’s been fantastic so far. The atmosphere amongst the group is awesome. I think it’s vital that everyone can take five or ten minutes to do something. Whether that’s meditation, exercise, or breath work, all of which help to relieve stress and improve fitness,” said Nicholas.
“Sport, for me, is by far the most effective way to improve both mental and physical health. The physical benefits are obvious to most people, but a lot of people don’t realise the mental benefits until they try sport.
“Of course, triathlon is my thing, so I do my best to get people to give it a go, but I also advise people to choose a sport that they’re interested in and that they enjoy. That way, they’re far more likely to stick with it.”
Iceguys specifically targets men, using the camaraderie that typically develops in a sporting environment to encourage conversation about mental health and wellbeing, with Nicholas saying: “It helps men to be more open. They might not sit around in a circle spilling out all their issues, but it certainly gives men a place where they feel comfortable talking a little bit more.
“Once the group dynamic takes off, men start to notice when there’s something up with somebody and feel ok to approach them and ask if everything is fine and offer support if it’s needed. I’ve seen this happen in Iceguys.”
The impetus behind Iceguys came from Nicholas’ personal experience of how he benefitted from taking up multisport, saying: “Without sport, I think I would’ve struggled badly with the pandemic and lockdowns. Getting out for a run, a bike ride, or a sea swim, which is more of a very brief dip during winter, all helped get rid of the stress of 2020.
“If you’re running or cycling hard, you tend to concentrate on trying to keep going, rather than anything else you’ve got going on and plunging yourself into the North Sea during December clears your mind like nothing I’ve ever experienced. Everybody who tries it says the same.”
Whilst the Iceguys group swim is currently postponed due to Covid restrictions, you can keep up to date through Facebook, Twitter and Instagram where Nicholas shares details about upcoming sessions as well as motivational posts to keep you pushing through the winter months.
You can also find Iceguys' female equivalent, Wild Sea Women.
Here is a section from British Triathlon’s FAQs regarding open water swimming: “In England, open water swimming venues are currently closed. Wild swimming is permitted either alone, with the people that you live with or have formed a support bubble with or with one person from another household. However, given the water temperatures at this time of year, we advise that you take safety precautions and do not swim alone.”