Airdrie & Coatbridge Advertiser

Water Angels find the Holy Grail of health and happiness

Paula and her group of hardy wild swimmers hail the benefits of a daily dip in cool pools, lochs and waterfall showers


Exactly a year ago, Lanarkshir­e grandmothe­r Paula Ainslie sought to lift her spirits and banish the lockdown blues by dipping her toe in the water of the health-boosting phenomenon that is cold body therapy.

What began with a 30-day cold shower challenge for Paula has since earned her a following of nearly 40 likeminded women in swimsuits who join her every day at 5.30am to plunge into icy open waters at various Lanarkshir­e beauty spots.

Named the Early Risers Water Angels, the group’s members extol the virtues of cold body therapy, from which they claim to reap endless physical, emotional and psychologi­cal benefits.

By choosing to start their day by exposing their bodies to extremely cold temperatur­es, these Angels from all over Lanarkshir­e believe the ritual has helped them find their water wings.

Paula was introduced to the concept of cold body therapy through a friend who, after moving abroad, began to make showering in cold water an enjoyable part of her daily routine.

“I was in a limbo with my health and, at the age of 52, started to worry about getting older,” explained Paula, who decided to explore how the increasing­ly popular practice could improve her sense of wellbeing.

“I was starting to get arthritic symptoms in my knees, hands and hips. Having a wee granddaugh­ter, I just wanted to be here as long as possible. It was in the middle of lockdown and I just wanted something to try and lift my mood and help me to focus.”

When a social media search threw up various cold water therapy and wild swimming groups in the West of Scotland, she introduced herself to a number of them last winter, joining the bathers for early morning dips in lochs and for waterfall showers.

She soon discovered various dipping spots within a 15-minute drive of her home: the White Loch at Stewarton; the Spectacle E’e waterfalls at Strathaven; the Rotten Calder at Calderglen Country Park, and the Four Angels Falls at High Blantyre.

Often immersing herself in sub-zero temperatur­es, Paula would expose her body to extreme cold every morning for between seven and 10 minutes – enough to give her a new-found sense of elation and boundless energy.

Not only did it gave her a reason to get out of bed in the morning, it also helped to ease her aches and pains, boost her circulatio­n and even improve her skin.

“I felt that mentally, it helped me to focus and it helped my mood. You get a lovely euphoria and it speeds up metabolism and gives you energy,” explained Paula, who wears only a bathing costume, scuba diving socks, gloves and a beanie hat while in the water, as she believes a wet suit would act as a barrier to the experience’s wide benefits.

As a follower of the method devised by and named after Dutch extreme athlete Wim Hof, Paula sang the praises of cold body therapy on social media and soon enlisted a host of followers, attracting interest from fellow enthusiast­s as far afield as New Zealand and from cold countries where bathers dig holes in the snow and ice in which to dip.

As she explained, Hof ’s method has opened her eyes to the importance of meditation and applying breathing techniques before venturing into cold water to ensure the body doesn’t go into shock.

“The Wim Hof Method teaches you how to breathe and how much more capable our lungs are than what we use them for,” she said.

“And by regulating your breathing before bed, you can get a better night’s sleep.”

Early Risers Water Angels try to head to the coast when possible, with its 36 members organising regular car sharing trips from Lanarkshir­e to Prestwick and Troon for sea dips in the Firth of Clyde.

When other obligation­s take priority and she can’t take the plunge in free flowing waters, Paula gets her kicks by immersing herself in the ice-filled tubs she has in her back garden in The Murray, East Kilbride, and at her caravan in Abington.

As well as recognisin­g the boost cold body therapy has given her own health and wellbeing, she says the stories of other women in the group pay testimony to the life-changing benefits it can bring.

It has, says Paula, been a godsend to one woman who was grieving a loved one she lost to Covid. It has helped others to cope with personal issues and has even accelerate­d another member’s recovery from major surgery.

“I also introduced my sister, Jacqueline, to cold water therapy,” said Paula, who now has more energy when spending precious time with her nineyear-old granddaugh­ter, Alycia.

“My sister had poor health and is recovering with the help of daily dooks in her tub.”

Although she manages to lure her partner into open water in warmer weather, Paula says he draws the line at joining her on icy dips. On road trips, though, he’ll indulge her by pulling over when she sees an inviting lake whose appeal she can’t resist.

By introducin­g cold water therapy to her daily routine, Paula has also revived a friendship with former classmate Pauline Gillespie, who is now an enthusiast­ic Water Angels member.

“We’ve known each other since we were four and went to Greenhills Primary and Ballerup High School together,” said Paula.

“Before I started doing this, we would see each other once every few months. We’ve rekindled our friendship and now see each other every day, and Pauline is a moderator on my wee Facebook group.”

Despite her early rises for the daily dips she admits are addictive, Paula has ample energy to manage The One Lounge beauty salon on Clarkston Road.

“When I started a 30-day cold water challenge on January 1 last year, I never imagined what a life-changing experience it would be,” she said.

“It would be great to build the group and be able to show new members the benefits of wonderful water immersion. I do not miss a day and I encourage everybody else to be the same.

“I think, as a group, the girls have found it very supportive. They know that when they do it, they feel amazing afterwards. You get such a buzz and a natural euphoria. It’s also a barrel of laughs – and you don’t get all that when you’re sitting around the house.”

For more informatio­n, or to join the Early Risers Water Angels, visit their group page on Facebook.

 ?? ?? Water babes Early Risers Water Angels at the dimming of the day
Togetherne­ss The Water Angels spread their wings
Hats off Life on the ocean waves
Water babes Early Risers Water Angels at the dimming of the day Togetherne­ss The Water Angels spread their wings Hats off Life on the ocean waves

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