I remember hot summers in the Lake District, swimming in lakes, tarns and rivers. I loved the water, my family had a Canadian canoe and we spent many happy hours pootling about on Derwent Water and exploring the islands where, my favorite book at the time Swallows and Amazons, was based. I went on to do my Stage 2 RYA Youth Sailing qualification in 2011 with my local scout group and found a real passion for the water.
As I grew older and felt the pressure of fitting into society and keep up with my friends. This became harder as my body changed and I became a lot more conscious of my body image. I suddenly started to worry about how I looked in a swimsuit and being seen alongside my slim, petite friends. I found myself wanting to stay firmly on dry land and keep covered up.
I passed through life keeping out of the water as I went off to University and established myself in the access sector beginning my career. I went through a rough patch in life, was diagnosed with PTSD, depression and anxiety and found myself scratching around for activities that improved how I felt. I then rediscovered open water.
I didn’t even plan to swim, but on a hot summers day walking in the Lakes I took a spontaneous dip in a tarn far away from the trodden path so no one around, in my bra and pants, not worrying about how I looked and took the plunge. I found my wellness in the water and haven’t looked back since.
Since then I have embraced my body and come round to realising the amazing things it’s capable of such as coping with cold shock in the depths of winter. How I felt about swimming in public places where I could enjoy open water swimming changed when I realised that if I kept waiting until I felt completely comfortable in my own skin, I would be missing out on all sorts of opportunities that would improve my mental health and bring me happiness in the now.
Swimming in cold water gives me a sense of being part of nature. The locations where I have the privilege to access blue spaces are truly special places where I can be surrounded by nature and submerge myself into the sensory magic of wild places. Having to concentrate on rhythmic breathing as you fight the urge to gasp from the cold water shock your body is experiencing concentrates my busy mind on the basics of breathing. It clears all the busy work madness, the daily worries and allows my mind to reset.
Open water swimming stimulates your parasympathetic nervous system, this is what restores your body to being calm and stops you over working your body. Immersing yourself in open water triggers this automatic response as the body prepares for more physical exertion than normal. This results in a better nights sleep and general feeling of relaxation. This benefit of open water swimming amazed me from nights of insomnia I found myself relaxing and sleeping like a log after a dip in the chilly waters of the Lake District.
What’s the best part of open water swimming? For me, aside from all the health benefits, I love the social aspect. I’ve met some pretty amazing folk when out for swims and I’ve taken my family out into the cold waters of Scotland and the Lake District. Everyone gets into the water for their own reasons but I’ve found them to be like minded lovely people, there to benefit their own mental or physical health, often gaining the confidence to do this by joining a group or friends to try out open water swimming.
If you are in Suffolk and want to try out a wild swim come along and join The Outdoorsy Type at Felixstowe on the 6th June at 10am.
I experienced my first ever group swim with The Outdoorsy Type last year. I plucked up the courage to don my swimming costume in front of a group of other people and actually I quickly forgot about my body image worries. There were plenty of lovely people to chat to and take my mind off how I looked and we were all there to have a great time doing something we all loved. There were regular swimmers in their wet suits with their tow floats but there were also many others like myself without any special equipment just a flask of hot chocolate at the end. These events are open to everyone and I’d highly recommend coming along whether you’re a seasoned swimmer or a total beginner I can assure you that you’ll have great fun.