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Comfortably numb: ice baths and open water swimming in Manchester and Liverpool

1 month ago

While most people associate outdoor swimming with summer, some folks eagerly await the steep drop in temperature that comes in winter. Balmy days and sun-warmed water don’t do it for them. Tin baths filled with ice and choppy lakes hovering around the 4°C mark do.

Advocates of cold water immersion say it improves your mood, strengthens your immune system and reduces stress, and there is evidence to suggest that they’re onto something. Others just enjoy being outside and embracing the winter months rather than hiding indoors waiting for them to be over.

It’s becoming so popular that there are several places in and around Manchester and Liverpool where you’ll find people gathering to swim or dip in deepest winter. Read on for six options, including ice bath sessions in Manchester city centre. If you’re looking for something to like about the darkest, coldest time of year, this could be it.

  • Manchester City Centre

    FWD Manchester


    Want to give Wim Hof style cold water immersion a try but without leaving Manchester city centre? Head to the ABC Building on Quay Street. Their rooftop dome and garden is the base for regular ice bath and breathwork sessions run by wellness facilitators FWD Manchester.

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  • David James Seed at The Farm Club doing cold water immersion

    The Farm Club


    The Farm Club started life as a triathlon training centre before it expanded into offering a wider wellness experience. Situated on an actual farm (hence the name) in Pickmere village, near Knutsford, it offers outdoor exercise sessions, lake swimming, wellness sessions, yoga, and meditation. There’s also a cafe and a self-catering lodge.

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  • Open water swimming at Liverpool Watersport Centre.

    Liverpool Watersports Centre


    Nothing shakes up the senses quite like a winter dip in the docks. Head to Mariners Wharf for all-year-round aquatic activities at Liverpool Watersports Centre including open water swimming, stand-up paddleboarding, kayaking, sailing, powerboating, and giant swan pedalo-ing. Go in the warmer months and there’s an Aqua Park too – basically a big inflatable playground in the water. 

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  • Sale Water Park in Manchester where Open Swim UK is based

    Openswim UK


    If you want to go swimming at Sale Water Park, the safest way is with Openswim UK. They hold casual swimming sessions there four days a week in spring and summer, plus sessions throughout the winter. With regular water testing and lifeguards on standby, it’s a lot less risky than venturing in on your own.

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  • Outdoor swimming at Swim Liverpool at Princes Dock, Liverpool.
    Princes Dock

    Swim Liverpool


    Swim Liverpool at Princes Dock is the Liverpudlian base of We Swim Run, the team behind various races, courses and events in the North West for, you guessed it, swimmers and runners.

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  • Media City

    USwim Salford Quays


    The idea of voluntarily getting into the oily, cone-strewn waters of Salford Quays would once have filled us with horror. But when Manchester hosted the 2002 Commonwealth Games and needed a swimming venue for the triathlon, this corner of it got a clean-up.

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