Feel the Fear and Try to Do It Anyway
The Newfound Joy of Wild Swimming
So three weeks since I first took the plunge, I am happy to report that I'm still going in and have only actually missed three mornings. It's become a ritual now and even though when I wake up, the prospect of a sea plunge isn't always instantly appealing, by the time I've walked through the fields, woken up, and warmed up, the sea dip halfway is now an essential part of the day.
Now don't get me wrong, Iron Woman I am not. I'm not a great swimmer, I'm actually afraid of water, I can only do breaststroke, and if I'm honest, it's more of a quick up and down in the shallow end with the dog than a preparation for swimming the Channel. But the bottom line is that I go in, it feels great. I emerge tingling with invigorated circulation and pride at finally becoming the woman in the water rather than the woman I used to be, sitting on the beach, wishing I was the woman in the water. My skin feels great, I feel great, it's good for the body, and it’s definitely good for the soul. A lady I was speaking to the other day goes in as often as she can. In her 80s and full of enthusiasm, she told me that she wasn't fanatical about it but if the sea called her, she went in. Three weeks ago I would have thought she was barmy. I get it now. I definitely miss it if I ignore the call.
But therein lies the next challenge, as yesterday morning I had my second test and it was a lot more difficult than the first one. You see, up until yesterday, the sea had been as calm as a lake, the sun has been shining, and the water has enticed me in with a promise of clear waters, a view of its sandy bottom, and the warmth of the sun on my face. Not so yesterday, or today, as the skies had darkened, the waves were rolling, not quite surfer level but still rolling and more nerve wracking for me, I couldnt see the bottom, or anything really, other than the swirling water and a greater abundance of seaweed. Which is a bit of a problem as I'm actually a bit of a wuss when it comes to unidentifiable sea creatures and unfortunately I know that they are in there because I've seen them. Thankfully, so far, I've not seen them in the water, but I've seen them washed up on the beach. It would appear that they definitely prefer the town beach but who knows where they are? They could be anywhere, floating about quite happily, all pretty and elegant but with a nasty sting in their tentacles. Apparently the Lion's Mane Jellyfish is a real bastard,
But unbelievably, I didn't let it stop me. Maybe it's an age thing, maybe I'm losing my marbles but for once, I didn't let fear hold me back and Roxy and I plunged in again, jumping the waves and generally behaving like 5-year-olds. Luckily no one saw us. But it was fun, really great fun. It was mad, cold, scary and brilliant all rolled into one. I never saw a jellyfish, but to be honest I didn't look too hard, although the moment when a piece of seaweed wrapped itself around my leg was an interesting one. Roxy had never seen me thrash around in a panic before and she didn't hang around. She was off. Some life saver she is. Heart pumping, I waited for the sting—it never came. All was well. I need to get braver though. I need to get my head under and really start looking around. I've come this far. If I can conquer that challenge I'll be really proud of myself.
But it’s getting colder and I've got another little challenge going with myself to see how long I can keep going in without a wetsuit. I've tried to convince myself that if I just keep on going in every day, I won't notice the change in temperature and my body will just get used to it. Which is probably absolute nonsense, because by the time I got home today my tootsies were a little on the frozen side. Ok I was bare foot but still, it was the first time I'd felt a little chilly. So I should probably start looking now. Suggestions anyone?
As a footnote, there are hundreds of articles on the benefits of dipping into cold water so if you're intrigued just Google it. According to most of them, the benefits are endless, from lowering blood pressure to improving mental health and interestingly, far from dulling it, cold water can actually increase your libido! Oh er Mrs... maybe I'll keep the results of that experiment to myself.
Sam Derbyshire is the author of What Goes on Tour, Text Me No Lies, and Trust Me, and I’m a Personal Trainer, due for release in September.
You can follow my blog at Sam Derbyshire.