Why I Swim
It’s been a busy few weeks, full of family and work and just life in general. Life is certainly beginning to look a little more normal compared with the last couple of years, despite the troubles in the rest of the world. I met some friends last week, and as we walked down the coast path to the beach we chatted and we realised that every one of us, for one reason or another is feeling slightly uneasy. It’s not something we could put our fingers on, or isolate as having a particular reason, instead it’s just an underlying worry. For me, I think it’s the inability to be able to fix things. I’m a bit of a control freak, so when something is out of my control, I spin out a bit. I’ve been living with that for the past two years, as although I could follow guidelines, I couldn’t fix covid, and now instead of that, we have the threat of a war. I guess that’s why we swim.
You might call us mad, but maybe you’d be right. All I know is that it works for me, and I’m not the only one, not by far. On Thursday, the beach was beautiful. If you were to look at a photo it would have been possible to imagine it was warm, but it wasn’t, despite the winter sun. My flock and I changed, and began our decent down the beach, stopping as the cold water hit our toes. It’s those noises we make then that always make me laugh, you’d think we’d be used to it now, having swum all year and right through the winter, but the water is actually still getting colder. It’s on a bit of a delay, you see, so due to the summer heat, the water holds its temperature until about October or November before it starts to drop, and trust me, it’s still dropping. But we’re almost at the point where it’ll get warmer now. Just another couple of months…
Getting into the water is hard, despite knowing how it’ll make me feel, I still have to push myself in. We all do, and we generally move together, it’s easier in a group, reassuring each other that we’ll be okay as the cold water hits our calves and knees and then thighs. I often end up on my tiptoes, which is at odds with my movements as I walk further out, but still I carry on, until I can sink down and let the icy blanket of water envelope me.
There is nothing like it. Once you’re in, it’s like there is nothing else in the world. Partially, I suppose our bodies are shocked and go into survival mode. It’s hard to breathe, but breathe we must, so we do, swimming to keep the blood flowing and ourselves warm, and then the cold is forgotten. Peacefulness comes over us all, and a stillness takes hold of our minds. We’re at one with the waves, and the sound of that in itself is soothing.
Staying in is a problem. If you stay in too long hypothermia can set in, and it’s important to recognise that. It’s all we could do to force our bodies into the water, and now suddenly it’s the other way, and we have to force ourselves back out again. Some of us set timers and stick to it, I don’t, but I do have a habit of staying in too long, watching everyone else get out, and then end up on jelly legs as I make my way up the beach to get dressed, pulling my gloves off to make sure my fingers still work.
The feeling stays though, and not just for a few minutes. The peace I gained from the water stays all day, and flows into my week. I really notice when I haven’t been for a wild swim, there is something truly soothing about it, something you don’t get from a pool. I think being out in the elements really helps my mental health. I remember that for all my worries I’m this tiny part of a huge world, and it makes my worries slide away for a while.
Wherever you are, take care of yourself x