I have signed up for Winter Swimming Championships. The race will occur in February, in Loch Tay in Scottish Highlands.

I have swam in this lake before, and that water is always freezing, dark and not really inviting, even in summer. It is going to be a cold one as wetsuits are not allowed. I don’t even enjoy cold water.

It scares me as much as it scares you.

My body doesn’t like it. Cold water can even kill me if I am not careful.

So why am I doing this?

I am always up for a new challenge. I like to see how far I can push my body and find my limits. I am also aware of the massive benefits of regular cold water exposure, and I think it is a goal worth pursuing.

For 5 min discomfort, I gain a stronger body, upgraded immunity, sharper brain and total peace of mind lasting hours.

As many people successfully do, I could go to the beach every Sunday and dunk in the cold sea. I’ve done it in the past, but it doesn’t motivate me enough. I need an external goal to keep me motivated and focused on the plan.

By signing up for the Championship, I put my reputation online. I put the money where my mouth is. I cannot back off, and I don’t want DNF. I have no other option but to train.

First, I need to get accustomed to cold water again. I plan to take a short dip every second day in my DIY garden cold plunge. Start quickly, only a few seconds at a time, and gradually increase the time inside. If I didn’t have a hard drop, a garden hose or even a cold shower would do.

Then, once or twice a week, I swim in the sea for a wee bit, gradually increasing the distance and time spent in the freezing water. I have signed up for a 150m front crawl, so it should take me less than 3 min, I hope. If this goes well, next year I would like to do the endurance swim, 450m and maybe, in the future, take it to the next level and swim 1km during world championships.

I am a big believer in setting up challenges, pushing through your limits, to widen your horizons. You can apply the same principle to anything you want to achieve or learn.

Let’s say you want to take your running to the next level. Instead of running for the sake of running, sign up for the 5km race in the next three months.

You will have a clear goal with a date and it will help you get motivated and focused. Even better, sign up for a few races in the season, and treat the first one as a trial one. This will be your baseline. Next time your run, try to run faster.