In addition to more time with my family, enjoying our wonderful surroundings and less time spent travelling around the country with work, one of the unexpected positives to take out of lockdown has been embracing ‘wild swimming’.
Pre-lockdown, I was swimming at Uppingham pool twice a week before work. I was training with a great group of friends that helped me swim faster and longer, and when Boris initially grounded us, it was one of the things that I missed the most.
When we started to be let out again, I heard friends had started to swim in the River Nene so, with some trepidation, I decided to join them to learn more. Over time, we have explored more areas of the Nene and as my confidence grew, I would go off and explore more in the sea while down in Cornwall.
There is something magical about swimming out in the real-world vs swimming in a pool. It is like comparing the treadmill to running along a coastal path or sitting on an exercise bike compared to cycling around the wonderful countryside with all it has to offer.
Seeing beautiful parts of the country, areas not normally seen from land and the wildlife that inhabits them (watch out for angry swans), has been such a brilliant addition to my weekly routine, and one that I will continue even once the pools reopen. Whilst the pools have their place, particularly for improving your technique and in the winter (when no amount of neoprene will keep you warm), swimming outdoors has brought a whole new dimension to my training. So here are my quick tips on how to get into ‘wild swimming’.
- Buy a swim buoy with a dry bag like this. It can make sure you are seen, act as a float if you cramp, and you can carry your keys, phone, or even a flare if you are in the sea.
- Whilst some hardcore locals will shun them, embrace the wetsuit. The longer you are in the water, the more likely you are to get cold, so reduce the risk.
- Test the water; even if just for the first time, swim with others that know the area, so you can learn from their experience. If you want to join me for an early morning swim at Wansford or Wadenhoe, just ask; you will be very welcome.
- Swim into the current first. In a river swim upstream first - that way, when you are tired you aren’t turning back into the current.
- Be careful in the sea. Speak to the RNLI or locals; someone once said to me that ‘the sea is always trying to kill you’. Whist I am not sure I agree with that, treat it with respect, tell people where you are going and swim at supervised beaches. Swim with fins if you are still unsure and take precautions.
- Read something like ‘Hell and High Water’ by Sean Conway to really see what human beings are capable of. He was the first person to swim from Lands End to John O’Groats.
It is important to stay safe, so be sensible and take advice.
As I head to the Welsh coast for a week with the family, one of the things I am looking forward to most is swimming in, and exploring, a new area of the sea. As Roger Deakin said in his book ‘Waterlog’, “Natural water has always held the magical power to cure.”