My bags were packed and I was ready to go. Just needed to do quick phone call to my parents to say I’m setting off. As per usual, the ‘quick’ element didn’t happen.
Me: Hi! Just about to set off. See you soon!
Mum: What’s the weather like?
Mum: Hmmm yeah… have you seen the weather for tomorrow?
Me: Yeah… raining.
Mum: Your Dad says it will be torrential rain.
Me: Mum… I’ll be swimming in a lake. I’ll be wet regardless…
That’s the beauty of open water swimming, you can do it in pretty much any conditions.
Last weekend I set off back to my home county of Cumbria to do the Great Swim Challenge in Lake Windermere.
My challenge was to complete a one mile swim, but unfortunately, due to the windy conditions on the Saturday, everyone’s swim was reduced to ½ mile for safety. Last year I did ½ mile, but the conditions were much better. Heading out from the jetty the waves instantly made me a victim. In through the nose, down past the throat. After the coughing had subsided, I was able to time my strokes with the waves. Finding my rhythm I started to make progress. The thing with me and challenges like this, is not about the time, but about getting round. I could take 4 hours, but as long as I complete it, it’s a job well done. And a thing I should make clear, I am not a strong or fast swimmer. My preferred stroke is breast stroke with my head out of the water. I ended up being second to last around the course in my wave and in comparison to last year, it was a much harder swim. Ironically, I enjoyed it more because of it. It had been more of a challenge.
(Me warming up before the 1/2 mile swim, and me getting out last year)
What I love about the Great Swim event is that everyone can get involved. All shapes, sizes and abilities. It’s never too late to start open water swimming. Events like this are a great challenge to work towards as there are numerous length waves you can go in and the safety teams on shore and in the kayaks are always on hand. Nothing to fear!
How I got into it.
I got into open water swimming back in 2016, when a friend of mine convinced me to try a sprint triathlon (750m open water swim, 20k bike, 5k run). To the utter disbelief of my 14-year-old-hater-of-exercise-self, I did it! The training for it included doing the Saturday Uswim sessions at Salford Quays. These sessions are every week between April- Oct on a Wednesday from 5.30pm and Saturday from 8am. You can hire out wetsuits or if you are hardy, you can go in in your swimming costume.
Why I love it.
Like running on a treadmill, I find swimming in a pool really boring with the stop/start element of lane swimming. But in open water, you get in the water and you go round a course and get out. It pushes you more. It’s the connection with nature that I love the most. Having nothing above me makes the experience (even in Salford Quays) so stimulating. The cold is also stimulating. Believe it or not, you can develop a resilience to the cold. There is a woman in Cumbria, during winter who was using a pick axe in a tarn to free up the water from thick ice for cold water dip… she was in a bikini.
Studies have shown that swimming in cold open water can have positive health benefits.
• Boost your immune system
• Improved circulation which gives a lovely side effect of giving you better complexion and that ‘glowing’ look
• Sea swimming can reduce eczema, psoriasis and the effects of hay fever
• Reduced stress and depression
• And more calories are burnt in open swimming than in pool swimming
Don’t be scared to give it a go. Start off with just getting in the water and then build from there. Every avalanche starts with a snowflake.
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For regular open water swims: