Swimming became more of a feature in my life in 2020. Hands up I’m not the strongest or best of swimmers. Learning to swim was more a case of learning not to drown when I was growing up. Putting my face in the water is a big no, mainly from being held under water by my big brother and uncles. No I just do not like it. So when I say I have been swimming this year it probably isn’t quite the same as other people’s idea of swimming. However, I have been moving and am assuming it is all good exercise. Besides it does get me from A to B.
Swimming in the Pool
Before the pandemic our youngest son was having swimming lessons. This meant I could swim with him before or after the lesson. Obviously I could also swimming during without him. With a marathon coming up I thought it was a good idea to do some sort of cross-training. This obviously then had to stop in March.
April was actually really warm and we had the paddling pool up. We did not refill the pool so the water temperature was whatever nature caused it to be. After jeffing I would put my legs into it. Being already used to the positive effects of cold water after a run, but I usually used the bath.
The river seemed the obvious choice with pools closed and we had swam there before.
When my husband had previously swum in the river with us, someone had stood on something. He was therefore not happy with us going in barefoot. Therefore, the month of May saw the arrival of us all having new swim shoes to alleviate this problem. The day after they arrived I went for a river swim with the then tween. Then June saw the youngest two boys utilising their new swim shoes in our local brook.
We also have a stand up paddle (SUP) board. So in July we took it to the river and some of us used it whilst the rest of us swam. It was August before I swam in the river again – once more with the then tween.
Cold Weather Swimming
September saw a drop in temperature. With cold water swimming you ought to adapt as the temperature drops so I knew it was important to go. I knew that River swimming in the Autumn would be different but I wasn’t prepared for the sudden drop in temperature.
My husband had taken a blow-up boat out to be next to me as I swam. He was cold because of the rain but I was fine in the water. At that point I was still swimming to the next bridge which is only 0.30 miles away. Getting back to the car though was absolutely freezing. It was then that I knew I needed to start getting changed before going home. As after swimming I tend to go home in my costume. At least I had taken a warm drink for afterwards and my hoodie.
Just a couple of days later the then tween wanted to go swimming in the river. The weather was warmer and we were more prepared for afterwards. Even had a warm hat to put on afterwards. Again we swam up to the next bridge. This time knowing that we may need to run back to the car. But we didn’t – it happened to be a lot warmer.
Cold Water Swimming After the Virtual London Marathon
After the Virtual London Marathon I couldn’t go swimming in the river because the levels were too high. This was really the start of not being able to swim when I wanted to. When I did go I went on my own, telling my husband that I would message him when I got out.
This was a big mistake and when I learnt an important lesson about cold water swimming. The current was too strong. I only meant to go a very short distance but I could not get out. As the river pulled me under the first bridge I suddenly felt how cold the water was. Knowing that I could die because I had been so stupid. Trying not to panic, as I knew that would just use up my energy! Obviously I managed to pull myself out onto the muddy bank.
Swimming with Natalie
The next time I went for a swim I had arranged to meet Natalie. She is much more experienced, as well as a stronger swimmer. She told me some things – such as swimming away from the bridge and advised me to buy a tow float. This arrived just four days later.
The start of November I got my husband to come with me whilst I swam. As I was going in alone, with only a spotter. All that was needed was a few minutes just to keep the cold adapting up. By this point I also had my nice bright pink tow float.
Before I got in I threw a leaf into the water to see how fast it would move. Apparently I need to throw something further and maybe a stick. Anyway this guy just watched me do it. Did not say a word. Wearing a swimming costume I feel it was pretty obvious what I was doing.
One of the fisherman near where I was getting in asked me if I was going to swim. Now remember I am not really a swimmer as such. He was fine with my explanation of what I was doing and so I entered.
But then this other guy comes over to my husband and asks him if I am mad. My husband just thought he was being jovial and explained I was just having fun. Basically the guy threatened to call the police if I didn’t get out so my husband called me to get out. Now at this point I had been in three minutes and I didn’t want to cause a fuss. Grateful that my husband had enabled my swim I just got out.
This guy then told me that it shouldn’t be allowed. That the water was too cold. What I did not realise at the time was that he had taken a photo of me whilst I was getting out. He then posted it on a Facebook group encouraging people to call me stupid. He then told lies about me.
The photo was deleted, I am not sure by who. What did result is that it meant I was in touch with a very nice local lady. She had found it, stuck up for me, and offered to meet so that I could swim without fear.
It was three weeks later before I swam again. A mix of how the water was behaving and fear. Checking on the camera by the river all the time – more for fisherman than river levels! I met up with the lady I mentioned above and another lady from a local swimming group. This was on the Saturday and there were lots of wild swimmers about who said they went there regularly. The other lady was able to regularly swim on a weekday morning, so we agreed to do that.
On my last river swim of the year there was yet another disgruntled fisherman. It meant that we ended up entering and exiting the water the other side of the bridge. This didn’t feel as safe. After this swim there was news of bird flu locally so I stopped swimming there. Besides we also had a lot of rain, thus causing a strong current and high levels.
Swimming at the Lake
Just when things were getting desperate and I was eyeing up puddles I got a message from someone my husband used to work with. She asked me if I fancied joining her for a swim at a local lake. The last river swim was 7.8 degrees (2nd December) but lakes can get colder because they aren’t moving.
This was also the time I got my duck thermometer – which is very unreliable. My first swim in the lake (16th December) was apparently 8 degrees according to the duck. It felt much colder, and probably was.
When we returned again (19th December) the duck said that it was 11, 10, 9 and 8 degrees. Other swimmers laughed and told me it measured 6 degrees! This time I opted for keeping a woolly hat on whilst I swam. Managing over 12 ½ minutes. It isn’t about time but I like to measure it because it to me is a good indication of not staying in too long. At is at this point that I purchased a winter membership.
My First Ice Swim
For it to be classed as an ice swim it needs to be under 5 degrees. Indeed my last swim of the year (29th December) was an ice swim. My skin was bright red like I had sunburn! It was the first time my husband came to the lake. With hands so cold I could not put the towelling robe over my head. This is when he said that a Dryrobe would be a good idea!
The Dryrobe will also be useful for Teen 2 when he has swimming lessons. It arrived New Year’s Eve and I couldn’t wait to go and try it out. Unfortunately they had had to limit things and there were no free slots until January 2nd.
January 2021 Ice Swim
The only swim I have got in this year was at 3 degrees. There’s lots online about respecting the cold water swim. About knowing what to do and what not to. Changing rooms were now only to be used in an emergency. Getting changed in the cold, not moving so much before changing, the drop in the temperature or staying in too long – one of them is the reason I wasn’t quite right.
I don’t want boots and gloves as I want to completely listen to my body. But my hands were so cold I couldn’t use them properly to warm up. My heart was beating so fast I thought it would burst out of my chest. My Dryrobe thrown over me instead of putting it on. Not caring who saw me as I just needed to get dressed. Unable to roll my top down over me, or put my socks on. Luckily my husband was around to help. Managing to get dressed and having my warm drink and I felt better again. But it felt so risky, like I had pushed things too far.
No the lockdown has happened the Lake has had to close. It is also out of my travel restrictions even if it hadn’t. By the time I can swim again it is going to be too cold. Cold water adaptation is good for so many things – it isn’t just about the swimming. So I have frozen loads of tubs of water and ordered an inflatable bath tub for the garden! Well I have a Dryrobe AND Oodie to make use of now so would be a shame to just stop.