A brrrrrrilliant blog by super lotus Kate, who swam through the summer in a wetsuit, but wants to enjoy the water all year around. So…
We met, as strangers, in the car park next to Tooting Bec Lido. After a hug and introductions, Alice and I headed to the entrance. Despite being the longest outdoor pool in the country, you’d hardly know it was there. It’s so well hidden amongst the trees, and going through the turnstile it’s like stepping into a secret world. And as the season changes, it’s a world of hardy outdoor swimmers – and I was planning to join them!
Inside, at a welcome coffee morning, some had already had their dip and were multi-layered, wide eyed and sniffy-nosed. Conversation skirted around the water temperature – the question never quite bubbling to the surface – a kindness perhaps towards those who haven’t yet taken the plunge.
Soon, Alice was keen for us to swim and we went to change.
I could feel my nerves jangling and I wondered if I could do this. As we headed out in our cossies and flip-flops, there was a light drizzle and a delicate breeze. The steps into the pool were just a few metres ahead, and as I approached, my mind went still – focusing only on what was in front. Alice confidently waded down the steps, throwing back an ‘oh it’s not that bad actually’ over her shoulder. I knew I couldn’t keep her waiting so followed as quickly as I dared. I was waist height before I knew it, and felt myself gasp. There was a giggle as Alice captured the moment on camera.
I tiptoed further in, so far so good… Then, Alice DUNKED! ARGH! One minute she was with me, half-in half out, then she was under in a swirl of bubbles and up again with a glorious exhale. What?!! A dunk was too much! I can’t dunk! Hysterical laughter as I felt myself stuck!
But again the camera was rolling, and, with a polite mention of a low battery, Alice helped me with a countdown, 3, 2……..1!…. I pushed off, glided forward and I was swimming! My skin prickled and a massive smile appeared on my face.
With an encouraging whoop, Alice joined me and we swam together up the pool, chatting as we went.
I felt every push through the water was cleansing. All that I had arrived with a few minutes earlier was being washed away. At that moment I was just me in the water, enjoying every sensation, feeling refreshed and revitalised.
Tootling lido is an oasis of calm, secluded from the buzz of the city. As you look up all you see is trees. The leaves were blowing down onto the pool like confetti and our breath joined the steam rising from the pool.
After two lengths a high five alerted me to the fact I couldn’t feel my edges, and we scuttled in to dry off and layer up. Suitably dressed it was time for tea, cake and a chat with other swimmers. Extra bonus – my burnt banana bread even won a prize!
What did I learn?
- I can do it. Without any superpowers!
- That goggles are for decoration only – face in is a step too far.
- You don’t swim far, but emerge with a zing!
- Winter swimmers don’t mind burnt cake
- Great things happen when you meet in a car-park
I left Alice with a giant hug and plans to take advantage of any opportunity for a swim throughout the winter. Thanks Alice!
芙蓉出水 Out of the water A Lotus Rises #WSC
Cold water swimming is a fun activity, but as with all outdoor activities there are risks and needs to be approached with common sense. Knowledge is power and although this is not an exhaustive list, some helpful resources on cold water swimming are: the brilliant Lone Swimmer ‘s Bible of Cold Water Swimming. And this piece by Simon Griffiths at Outdoor Swimmer on After Drop is also an informative read and refers to the interesting research being undertaken at Portsmouth University around these issues.
There’s no such thing as a stupid question, so don’t be shy and do ask your fellow swim buddies for their advice and become part of a swim community. The same piece of water will change every day, as does how you feel. No swim is the same, so listen to your body and know your limits…And pack sensibly – post swim always have a woolly hat, and loads of layers, starting with a good thermal (top and bottoms) next to the skin and layer up from there – people take the p*ss out of me for how many layers I put on, but I don’t care! Oh, and don’t forget cake. This is a particularly important time of year for the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies – they need you – for your cake and your winter swimming smiles, not for unnecessary shivers or scaring yourself 🙂