So, why wild swimming? by Fay Preene
27th September 2018
As this post will show, for me, open water swimming is not just an action or an exercise : it touches on my happiness, my job, the environment and my social life. I have always loved water, that being, in it, on it, beside it or listening to it.
Moving to the Lake District alone was a big move but one that I was positive about due to spending so much time here throughout my life; it was a home away from home. Shortly after moving to the Lakes I started open water swimming and that’s where the love story began. I owe a lot to the ‘Buoy 13 Swimming Club’ for it is them who have turned me into a wild swimming addict! Whilst I have embraced open water swimming, the group has embraced me and I have made some life-long friends. We all share the same love for open water swimming and although this is the reason why we all meet, at the heart of this is the social aspect of going swimming. It’s great to get down to the lake on a morning, rain or shine and to be greeted with big smiles, friendship and lots of chit chat.
I can truly say, that there is not one day that I have regretted going swimming. It becomes a routine, one that I know so well, and my mind is addicted to the feeling that you get after you have been wild swimming and most especially, cold water swimming. The huge natural high is so prominent. I feel as though someone has injected me with happiness, given me five coffees and stuck a smile on my face from ear to ear that lasts for the rest of the day. I work in a job that is emotionally very demanding, and which I struggle to switch off from. I have found that heading to work after a wild swim allows me to feel energised, level headed and composed. My mind has been topped up with all of the natural good stuff!
Being in the lake is an escape. An escape from anything that it going on in my life, be that good or bad. In the lake, I am in the moment, alone with my feelings. I am not racing around at work, not checking my phone, not keeping on top of daily tasks and not overthinking. In the water my body is weightless and I feel detached from what is going on in my life. It forces me out of the state that I am in and it puts me in the present moment. I feel relaxed and calm, more at ease than anywhere else.
In the water you can watch the world go by in slow motion and it gives you time for yourself, which is important in a busy lifestyle. Our lives are consumed with technology, it is at our finger tips constantly. When you swim outside it brings your attention back to the things that are going on around you. It is just so nice to slip away from the modern day vacuum and feel alive, to be there, in the present. I’m spending time outdoors, whatever the weather, throughout the seasons, and in this beautiful place that we all call home.
Wherever I wild swim, be that in a lake, tarn, river or in the sea it makes me truly appreciate the magnitude of the world, and our environment, and how we are such small beings lucky enough to embrace this planet. I’m part of something that is much bigger than me, I’m something so tiny in such a big mass of water. It certainly puts things into perspective and it is a way of being in the moment, among the huge vastness which reduces the scale of any problems that I may have. I sometimes like to just stop and float or tread water and appreciate everything around me. I get to the lake on a morning and no matter what the weather is like, it is both magical and therapeutic.
I like swimming in all different types of weather; the weather is part of the whole experience. Mornings are predominantly special especially those when you catch the sunrise and you feel drenched in beauty. Some mornings the lake can be calm, without a ripple and with all of the trees reflecting onto its silky surface. It can also be wild. some days you can get to the shoreline and all you can see is a grey angry mass with waves crushing on the surface. The stormy lake is enticing, you feel so small and insignificant. In all these conditions, and with all my emotions, the open water acts like a big pool of liquid medicine.
Wild swimming gives us contact with nature and unless you have that connection when you are outdoors, you are probably reading this thinking that I’m a mad tree hugging lady. I’ve always loved the outdoors and this was magnified a few years ago when I trekked to Everest Base Camp. Our lives can be stressful and when you step away from this and you step into nature you get a shift; your brain and body change physically and mentally. You relax and the quality of your thoughts change.
There is lots of research surrounding this, especially ‘green and blue therapy’ which looks at the connections between mental health and spending time outdoors. Being in water is my happy place. When I’m in the lake, having a shower, swimming lengths in the pool, relaxing beside the sea on holiday or even when I’m just near water, I feel calm, quiet and tranquil.
But I have also felt the complete opposite in water. I will always remember my first ‘solo swims’ in the lake. All of a sudden a weed touching my leg could have been a great white shark, not being able to see the bottom meant that the lake sunk deep into the earth’s surface and not getting back to the shoreline was a high possibility if I didn’t swim faster. I’m not sure why our minds can make us feel like this, I’m a competent swimmer with confidence in my ability. It’s interesting how my happy place can also make me feel like a child that’s scared of the dark when I swim on my own. So swimming with the Buoy 13 swimming club gives me a sense of security, along with a social injection.
I hate being stuck indoors and I hate not doing anything. The feeling I hate the most? Feeling like I’ve wasted the day. That is why I love my early morning swims, I do something for myself before my working day has even begun. I need that little dose of craziness. I wouldn’t be satisfied at the end of the day if got up, went to work and then just came home and spent the night in. I want to get up early and get outside, to feel alive and start my day right. There will always be reasons not to do something and you will always find excuses to rationalise why you aren’t doing something. But just do it. Life is happening despite the plans we are making and sometimes sadly, not making. We live in a world where people work all week to have two days off. People sit at a desk just wishing that home time would come quicker. You then finish work and spend your evening thinking about work the next day. I never want to live my life like that. It is so easy to get caught up making a living that you forget to make a life. We are rooted to our routines. But just get outside and get out of your comfort zone. That is the beauty in living life, we are constantly learning, experiencing and growing. We are on this planet to live and wild swimming is my little piece of bliss.