Not swimming every day has had a real impact on me. After I completed my 365 days last year, I went cold turkey for four days and it was a big mistake and showed how important swimming every day was in helping me to keep my cool. It started as something very personal and finding time for myself every day, but posting it on Instagram meant that it was something for everyone to engage with and it felt like people were putting me on a pedestal for this remarkable task I was undertaking…which isn't what it felt like to me; I'm not sure I’ll ever appreciate how big a task it was. It was an inconvenience at times but come rain or shine, whether I was by the sea or not, and whether I had covid or not (cold isolation showers in my flat!) I was in every day and I loved every swim I did. I don't know where that time or commitment to it has gone now and I feel sort of lost without that. Although I am still swimming occasionally, I could (and really should) get back to swimming every day again.
Mornings that involve a swim usually include a frantic last minute dash for a pair of pants, a towel and a beanie at the exact minute my pal tells me she’s outside to pick me up. I don’t hang around before a swim, I often find it’s harder to get in when you keep faffing at the shoreline, so it’s a quick strip and straight into the water for me. Sometimes I glide in, other times it’s a case of diving head first. Then the all important hobble out of the water and back into a dry robe – and usually a little boogie to some disco music to give us all a giggle. The morning is finished off with a coffee at Hutong Cafe and the weigh up of how long I can stay hanging out before the absolute last minute when I need to make a dash to make it into work at an acceptable time.
I’m currently a PhD researcher at the Marine Biological Association looking at the role fungi and other microbes play in the ocean. Work is intense and there have been some tough times, I remember in my second year of PhD, going for a swim one day and I'd been struggling quite a lot (in hindsight probably on the edge of burn out after going straight from completing my masters while holding down a job and ploughing straight into one of the most academically challenging things I had done). I remember bumping into a friend and I don't know how it ended up happening but I remember just crying to her on the beach saying “I want to quit, it's so horrible, it's the worst”. She asked me when I had last taken a break? That morning I went and booked two weeks off and spent most of it swimming at least once if not twice a day. I’m not sure where my career & life will take me next, but for now I’m trying not overthink it too much, my aim is to be happier and kinder to myself.
I’ve been swimming since I was young. My mum always used to tell me the story of when I was a baby, she would throw me into a swimming pool and I just sort of swam. I was a competitive swimmer from about 8 or so, dipped into synchronised swimming for a period and now also play water polo. Cold-water swimming has been part of my life from a young age and I was always being dragged out of the sea but I regularly started wild swimming when I came to Plymouth for Uni. The cold never really bothered me, and I was always so happy to be in the water. I remember my first ‘proper’ hat and goggles swim in the sea was off Jenny Cliff beach. A friend of mine at the Uni was taking part in the channel relay and asked me if I wanted to join. I just remember the long thong weed and being slightly scared about swimming out from a beach I’d never been on, but I don’t remember it being cold at all.
I once heard someone describe the feeling of different temperatures of water like shapes and it's actually very true, warm water is a round shape and cold water is spikey. I don't know why, but somehow the description is true. Being in the water is freeing and it gives me the time and clarity to think and reflect about certain thoughts in my head in a way that being dry and on land doesn't do. Last year my swims became about connecting with myself every day, whether that was for 3 minutes or 4 hours, that time was for me.
Best swims? – Long summer evenings floating in the water while sharing a beer with friends.