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Inspired by the wild winter swimmers I followed and spoke to on Instagram, I did something I would never have dreamed of earlier this year and booked myself for a “polar” open water swim .
5.1 ° in Boundary Water Park in Cheshire
The swim was due to take place on Sunday December 6th at the Boundary Water Park near where I live in Cheshire. Swimming outdoors in December both fascinated me and seemed utterly insane at the same time. Shortly after booking, as the water temperature was dropping day by day, I started to wonder if I hadn’t gone insane easily.
If you had told me 6 months ago that I would be swimming outside in December, I just would not have believed it.
The day before my swim I received an email warning that the water was classified as “very cold” at 6.5 degrees and, honestly, I was very concerned that I would be too cold. The coldest water I had swum in at that point was 10 ° before the second lockout, and I found that difficult.
Despite my fear, which increased in the hours before the swim, I was determined not to step back and told myself I would try. If I only got in to my waist and had to come out right away, at least I would have tried well and would have known my personal limits.
The cold and dark day certainly didn’t make boarding any easier!
I really had no idea if I would be able to do this and suspected I would get on and off right away!
My fiancé came with me to provide moral support and help me get out of my wetsuit quickly after I had a swim and the Uswim team were also on hand with kind words of encouragement.
As I was preparing to get in the water, a group of ladies started chatting and we went into the water together – hearing that they had never swam so cold in the water and cheering each other on really helped. That’s one of the things I learned to love about Uswim. Everyone is so talkative and friendly and we encourage each other which really gives you a confidence boost.
Just out of the water and shining!
After my last bath a few weeks ago, I had invested in gloves (it turned out they were too big, as suspected, but better than nothing!) And my neoprene boots and 4/3 wetsuit (albeit more like one Surf as an open water specific suit) got me decently isolated. I spent a good amount of time moving around the first time I got in and out of the water and getting used to the temperature before making our way to the short course.
My fingers fared the worst and stayed very, very cold, painful for the first 10 minutes, but the rest of me didn’t feel bad, which surprised me very much. I still have no idea how people can go in without a wetsuit. I think they must be superhuman!
For me personally, my swim today was a great personal achievement as I overcame both the official and the mental limitations.
After doing the short course we decided we would take a dip in the full course and it was so nice to swim with company as I don’t usually have anyone to swim with and I’m not sure I had the courage to try it yourself.
The smile says it all!
We certainly didn’t break any speed records, but I think it’s fair to say that after completing the bigger course we surprised ourselves and it felt like a massive accomplishment.
I know a lot of people are cold and in fact swim colder and it really isn’t that special, but for me personally, my swimming today felt like a great personal accomplishment that overcame obstacles both physical and mental.
The positive effects of cold water swimming are well documented and I love the endorphin it gives me. The increased wellbeing can stay with me for a good 24 hours and I think you can see the exhilaration on my face after swimming.
Everything dry and warm after my swim
I’m not going to say that there was no physical discomfort and that it wasn’t difficult, but I absolutely loved it!
Again a big thank you to Dave and the entire team at Uswim for their guidance and encouragement. If you had told me 6 months ago that I would be swimming outside in December, I just would not have believed it.
I feel like I have benefited so much from advancing myself this year, like I achieved some amazing things that I am proud of, even though the year is so tough and limiting in so many other ways .
Inspired to swim?
Find out more about Uswim Open Water and read about my first experiences with Open Water Swimming here.
Take a look at the activities of the Black Swimming Association or take a look at Metal Health Swims, a community of wild swimmers that conduct group swims across the UK all year round.
Where to go next
Shell loves all things travel and the outdoors, and is a nature-loving, comfortable camping girl. Shell started the Camping with Style blog after a serious snowboarding accident that left her with a broken back. Even so, she used the outdoors and nature’s healing powers to relax, and she continues to spend time outdoors whenever she can.
From swimming in the open water, snowboarding and kayaking to mountain hiking and meditation, Shell shares their travels and micro-adventures here on the blog. In various publications she has written for, Shell has a particular interest in promoting the wellbeing and many benefits of nature therapy.
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