If you're bored of the gym or still haven't got to grips with swimming lane etiquette, perhaps it's time to give open water swimming a go. There exists a tribe of those addicted to the buzz from that first plunge into icy cold water that leaves hearts racing and skin tingling. Then there are those doing it for the benefit of their health and to relieve stress. We all know swimming is one of the best exercises out there for us, but taking it to the great outdoors has more added benefits than you might think.
A Czech study found that the shock your body experiences from plunging into cold water causes your internal system to produce more white blood cells, which boosts your immune system. The lower temperatures also improve circulation because it requires the heart to pump more blood to your organs. Some people swear by it being an effective way to target cellulite. The temperature shock sends your heart racing, which starts to burn calories before you've begun exercising, as does the fact your body has to work harder by using more energy to keep you warm.
If you're a wild water swimming novice, it's a good idea to acclimatise gradually with regular shorter swims and start off wearing a wetsuit (unless you're feeling brave). If you're jumping in, breathe out on your way in so your body will naturally inhale and you won't struggle to catch your breath when the cold hits.
Unsure where to go? Try:
Linhope Spout, Northumberland
A spectacular waterfall with a ledge from which you can jump into the deep plunge pool.
Holy Island, Lindisfarne
Take a dip in the sea but be aware of the weather or changes in waves. Check with the local coastguard if you're unsure whether it's safe to swim.
Ellerton Park, Ellerton
A 60 acre lake popular with triathlon swimmers and various water sports. You'll need a wetsuit or you won't be allowed in.
Wykeham Lakes, Nr Scarborough
Used for numerous open water events, it's the ideal place for endurance training. Once you're a pro, enter the championships.
Allerthorpe Lakeland Park, Nr York
This manmade weed-free lake would be a great place to start, with safety cover and perching points where you can catch your breath, and on-site hot showers for afterwards.
Ashby Ville, Scunthorpe
A quiet, clean spot with the added benefit of sandy entrances that's easily accessible.
Rydal Water, Grasmere
As one of the smallest lakes in the Lake District, there's virtually no boat traffic here, while the surrounding walk will take you to Wordsworth's home.
Crummock Water, Buttermere
Surrounded by breathtaking views, this two and a half mile-long clear water lake will suit your endurance training needs.