All posts by Alice

ALotusRises.com comes from the Chinese proverb 芙蓉出水 (fúróng chūshuǐ) Out of the Water a Lotus Rises. A movement of women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water.

Swimming in Siberia and other stories. A Lotus Rises meets Lake District wild swimmer Jackie Risman

Jackie Risman is part of a growing swimming community in the Lake District. Whilst many people start their outdoor swimming careers in warm climates, Jackie’s first outdoor swims were in Siberia!

A Lotus Rises spoke to Jackie to find out more about her swimming journey from Siberia, to Argentina and back home to the Lake District and her growing group of swimmers.

Why did you start outdoor swimming?

After two years of teaching English in Siberia, I decided to go winter swimming. My Russian student always found a way to turn discussions to the traditions and health benefits of swimming in cold water. It was worth trying if I was ever to find out what all this talk was about. As my boss, and in his role as President of the Tyumen Winter Swimming and Hardening Association he grasped an opportunity to introduce his passion to both me, the extreme tourist, and his growing children. When I announced my intention to swim in the frozen lake beside his dacha, in the depths of yet another harsh Siberian winter, the children said “Ok. If you swim, we’ll swim!” He stood proud as we all shook hands in solid agreement.

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Saturday morning arrived and my boss led our anxious group to the gym for a warm-up game of basketball. When our cheeks began to flush, he told us to quickly change into swimsuits while he organized our equipment. He was presented each of us with only a toweling dressing gown, fur-lined gloves, traditional Siberian felt varlinkee boots and a woolly hat. Laughing about our lack of winter clothing, we trudged outside into -15ºC and the icy path to the pool. Cold air crept into every space between skin and fabric, threatening to deep freeze our bodies until guided back to the sauna. Family and friends were applauding and yelling support from the dacha balcony, clutching hats and down jackets to them, as if we were making them feel colder. My brain screamed of danger, but my body wondered what all the fuss was about, because it really wasn’t as immediately bad as I presumed being semi-naked in wildest Siberia would be.

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The children stood back from the lake as we reached the wooden walkway leading across the frozen shore to the shelter protecting the ice hole. Memories flew across my mind of torturous school hockey games in the middle of winter while fingers froze and sleet blinded us. “But THIS is Siberia,” I repeated, “this is what they do in Siberia, and of course you can do it too. You’re a tough Cumbrian lass.”

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Without delay, my boss urged me to follow him inside the shelter. The children’s heads crowded into the doorway behind us, while I stared down at the 8m x 2m hole that had been carved through metre-thick ice into the frozen lake. A pump was driving air which bubbled through the black water to keep it from re-freezing, but the wooden steps descending into the steaming mix were shrouded in icicles and delicate frosting. The smell of rich Siberian earth, vegetation and metallic new ice lingered in the fog. Light flooded plastic-paneled windows while their corners were rounded with remnants of last night’s snowfall. This place hovered in a netherworld caught under the snow yet above the ice, and I was about to go swimming.

“Jackie, you must breathe out when you enter the water. Don’t forget to breathe.” My boss was calling me back from imagination. A moment of no thinking, of simply following his guidance, and I was trying to relax my breathing, outside in a Siberian winter, in a swimsuit and bobble hat.

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My toes touched the water which had been a film of glassy ice only a few hours ago, and I knew it was going to hurt. Two more steps down and my knees were submerged. Standing on the wooden framework, almost at my ear, my boss shouted “Go, go Jackie go.” I pushed away from the warmth of the wood and fell into the world of winter swimming in Siberia. From that moment, I didn’t look back with an ounce of regret or doubt that my boss knew exactly what he was talking about, and everything he had said was true. With a dedicated ice training plan my circulation and immune system dramatically improved, my heart felt strong, an appetite for adventure grew, and ‘cold’ never crept back into our vocabulary.

Siberia – that’s amazing – what’s it like cutting the ice?!

Every week, we swam in the frozen lake at the dacha. The children would drop into the pool behind me like ducks. Our screams of fear became encouragement, and more friends, including Ruth from Northern Ireland, joined us for the first time, fed by our enthusiasm for ice water. By May, winter had faded, the lake was melting, and we were confident and capable of swimming outside even when the temperatures plummeted to -34ºC. We followed International Winter Swimming Association (IWSA) guidelines and rules of security which meant that no-one swam alone, or without a woolly hat, or without the sauna being prepared first, and we never said the c-word!! Of course, it was going to be c-c-cold. By avoiding the word, we found a game in the positive mindset needed to keep swimming week after week in water below +5ºC. Usually, the children pushed me to swim first, and often the air pump had not been turned on. I would launch out from the steps and have to crash my naked hands onto sheets of invisible ice threatening to slice arms and faces. Icicles and frost would sparkle like fairy dust as steam rose from water warmer than the outer air. Our damp varlinkee boots would freeze to the wooden walkway and prevent us from stepping straight into them and easily walking away from the pool. Part of the fun was being frozen to the spot, and then sprung free to slide along the walkway back to the bank, but nothing prepared us for the razor sharp slashes of water which had frozen to our wet skin, that were pulling fine hairs from arms and exposed legs.

Where else have you swum?

The following summer, my boss was invited to the Argentina Winter Swimming Festival, in the Andes above Mendoza, and to swim in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia. He invited me, and I was honoured to join him. This unique opportunity of swimming in the cold but open waters of an Argentinian winter, concluded all the preparation we had been doing in Siberia. With nothing more than a swimsuit, cap, goggles and a positive attitude, strong friendships were founded as swimmers from 20 different countries shared unique experiences with us. Back in Siberia, we looked forward to hosting and swimming with these special people in the 2nd Tyumen Winter Swimming Open Cup. Guests joined us in our pool at the dacha, from South Africa, USA, Chile, Argentina, England and all across Russia and Europe. For many, winter swimming in Siberia was an impossible dream, and the event cemented our international winter swimming family.

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Next, I landed in Finland with Ruth, and participated in the national championships, just 100kms from the Arctic Circle. More than 700 swimmers of all ages and abilities from across Finland, with a mutual love of winter swimming hosted us. We loved every second of their fresh/sea water pool and the club on the river, which is attended daily by hundreds of swimmers just as keen as us to feel their endorphins racing. Soon, I was on my way back to Argentina, via Prague to join Czech swimming friends, who also shared a passion for swimming throughout the year, and I promised, one day, to return for their traditional Boxing Day swim under Charles Bridge.

 

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After my second South American winter in Argentina, and assisting the organization of another International Winter Swimming Festival, life took a dramatic turn when aged only 45, I returned to Cumbria for a life-changing total hip replacement. Convinced that I wasn’t going to waste time by sitting around in pain, I visited Wigton Baths as often as possible for classes. I hoped to learn how to properly swim front crawl, right up until the week of surgery. Just as Siberia had taught me to enjoy the positivity of winter swimming, the pool taught me that movement without pressure on my damaged joints was keeping muscles flexible and my heart moving. Post-surgery, 6 weeks later, I was on my way back to the pool with Francine who, after 30 years of friendship, I’d just heard about her love of morning pool swims. It was a celebration to be in the water again and able to explore a new range of movement.

I walked with Leah from Lanthwaite Green car park at Crummock Water, just 8-weeks post-surgery. I’d underdressed my swimsuit and saw total shock when I told her as we locked the car. She held my clothes and sheltered from the sudden snow shower, laughing her head off when I waded into the lake at flat-stone beach, and had the shortest and first of many wild swims on home turf. Half disbelief, half amazement that I felt back in a pain-free world of adventure, which didn’t just connect me with open water. Having grown up in the Lake District, it had never occurred to me until then that I had a million opportunities for both cold and open water on the doorstep. My plan to swim in every swim-able lake was born now that I felt back on track with the buzz of Crummock-enduced endorphins racing through my body.

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Where do you like swimming now and who with?

Three months after hip replacement, and feeling the need for an open/cold water companion, I put a message on Cumbria Open Water Swimmers Facebook page for like-minded winter swimmers. At first, the general response was very discouraging but, rising above the negativity, I stayed hopeful until Rosie replied and wanted to swim. We messaged, agreed to swim from the boat landings at Derwentwater, and then I asked “Where do you live?” As fate had it, we lived in Wigton, the same small Cumbrian town!

Fate and social media had nailed it. May Bank Holiday weekend, with fresh snow on the fells, we dipped into Derwentwater and it felt good. Our next adventure took us to Glencoyne Bay, Ullswater with artist, Nancy Farmer and her unforgettable chocolate brownies, and I knew what I needed to do…get decent swim shoes to deal with awkward rocks underfoot, and keep doing what we were doing. There was no pressure to push extreme limits, we belly-laughed in the middle of lakes, and we got out when we knew we could still recover with ease. The water temperature was much warmer than Siberia, closer to +7ºC, but the feeling was just as exhilarating. My journey had been tough with a lot of miles to get back home with a new outlook, and I felt stronger with every adventure – the Lake District had everything I could possibly need to pursue my love of wild swimming, while the people I told my adventures to smiled and became curious.

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Eighteen months later, and every weekend it’s a different Lake District location, maybe a favourite lake spot or an unfamiliar tarn. This weekend I’ve been in both Crummock and Ullswater, wild swimming in the rain, uniting a group of swimmers that had never met before. Jean, who dared herself a year ago to join me and Rosie after we met at a local writers group; Margaret, who I met through mutual swim friends that we’d both found on Facebook, or was it Instagram?! Karen, accomplished swim achievements to her credit and visiting from Loch Lomond, but we first met in Argentina. And Francine, who finally joined in my challenge to swim all the Lakes, and has become my same-pace-same-courage-can-do-swim-pal; after all this time, who knew that her curiosity would generate a new dimension to our friendship.

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How did that swim group grow?

Our wild swimming community is built on personal connections, and jam-packed with positive souls and strong spirits, regardless of ability, age, or experience, but united in their sense of adventure and love of being outside to see the Lake District from inside the view itself. The Swim Gang messages through the week to plan our next adventure, and has grown from tiny seeds of connection and mutual friendships, with wild swimming in the Lakes as our linchpin. We share transport and suggestions of recommended locations, Suzanna Swims offers creative routes, or Susan wishes for dawn training calls, on sunny evenings there are post-work de-stresses, or early Sunday morning nattering from the middle of a lake, bobbing along with the wind and buzzards swooping overhead. The rest of the world may be sleeping off what it thinks has passed. Meanwhile, we’re in the quiet of what is yet to happen, in the middle of the natural world where it’s all still ticking along nicely, and the rubbish stuff is too far back on the shore to reach. The serious bit is that we are all aware we are not out there alone: tow floats are a must, there’s no prizes for staying in too long, and the swim isn’t over until everyone’s recovery is complete. After all, this is extreme adventure tourism, although it may not be Siberia, but the stakes are equally high. And there is always the sharing of photos and experiences, across our social media circles which are spread around the world, or tea and cake for when we’ve dried off!

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What does swimming mean to you?

Recently, I enrolled for an online copywriting course. The first exercise said – Sell yourself in a letter and sign it with your defining life role. I gave it a lot of thought: writer, teacher, domestic engineer…no, I thought…wild swimmer. I’m a wild swimmer and I’m wild about swimming wild. I love the rituals; the adrenalin; the mastering of irrational fears; the state of having irrational fears; our community; their diversity; how we never permit the c-word; swimming in all weathers, in all seasons; the strength that each of us displays that no individual thought they held alone, although wild swimming is not a team sport. Swimming has become the force of nature that wakes me early at the weekend, keeps me warm in the winter, and throws me into the beautiful Lake District landscape in search of fresh adventures. Every time, the experience is different, neither better nor worse – just wildly unique.

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As you know A Lotus Rises is working in collaboration with the International Institute for Swim Cake studies, to answer the fundamental question of open water swimming: What is the best cake for optimum swim performance.  Please can you tell us, what is your favourite swim cake and why?

And sometimes, Lottie will bake a cake. OMG can she bake a cake. Macademia and White Chocolate Brownies. End of!

What is your favourite piece of swim kit and why?

Finally, shoes. Get some, they will change your swim life. Take away the pain of starting and finishing your wild swim, knowing your feet won’t hurt and I may not be Halle Berry wading out of Ullswater, but I’ve never stubbed a toe when I’m wearing Sports Direct’s Hot Tuna swim shoes. With flexible but hardwearing soles, neoprene slip-ons, they are secure, lightweight, still let me feel the water temperature, are machine washable, and incredible value for money. Plus, a lightweight but hooded toweling poncho that rolls up small for my backpack to save modesty and from flashing my cold bits in moments of vulnerability.

Swim safe. Swim wild.

You can follow Jackie’s adventures and connect with her via Instagram 

A Lotus Rises  is the swimming blog for women who love open water, from your first 25m to the Channel. And we’re on a mission to increase visibility, access and participation of women in swimming and we’d love you to be a part of it. Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and Instagram, – please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or  alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

Women Only Swimming Cancelled Following Discrimination Complaint

A swimming pool has cancelled its weekly one hour women only swimming session after they were asked to justify why they run the sessions, under the Equalities Act 2010.

Female only swimming sessions will no longer be held at  Dursley pool after a complaint by one man was made under the Equalities Act 2010 –  the Council was contacted and asked to justify why women only sessions were offered as they were likely to be in breach of the Act.

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Whilst one’s immediate reaction may be WTF, this is vexatious bullS*&%, the decision to stop the sessions is apparently driven by concerns of adhering with the law.

We’re not an expert on the Equalities Act, but one can’t help but wonder that this use of the legislation is perhaps not the purpose for which it was intended.

Core guidance from the Equalities and Human Rights Commission sets out that there are exceptions to the general rules of equality law, and subject to meeting particular criteria, female only as well as mixed swimming sessions are actually given as an example of one such exception.

There also seems to be an issue of proportionality here – this appears to be a one hour weekly session – was there, could there have been a discussion about how best to resolve this? What prompted the complaint – is this an opportunity to understand the needs and concerns of the different stakeholders involved? Could it be that a men only session as well as a female only session is needed, and is possible?

Perhaps there is a particular circumstance unique to this pool that means unlike many other pools across the UK, they cannot hold women only sessions?

That conversation is particularly important as there is, quite simply, a crisis in swimming in the UK:

In the past decade over 1/2 million women gave up swimming in the UK  because of fears about how they look. And more than three times as many women as men stopped swimming between 2005 and 2014 – indicating the value in women only swim sessions

In 2015, 181,700 women quit swimming compared with 63,300 men.

Back in 2015 Claire Cohens article in the Telegraph described how the This Girl Can campaign that encourages women to get active and helps break down barriers to sports participation, was driven by research from Sport England that identified that a fear of judgment was the biggest barrier to participation in sport; and that fear, “far outweighs women’s confidence to exercise.” Concerns ranged from embarrassment over sporting ability to worries about appearance – women only sessions help to reduce such barriers.

Female only swim sessions are important and they are needed.

Of course the barriers to participation in sport and swimming and the health crisis in the UK is not limited to women:

1/5 adults in the UK can’t swim; and 

45% of 11 year olds are unable to swim 

It’s time no just to talk, but to take positive action on swimming as a life skill, a gateway to well being for everyone –  learning to swim is a human right.

It was really exciting to see that Catherine West MP is setting up an all party group on swimming to address access and participation and other issues.

The article in the local newspaper the  Gazette, says that the council are looking at whether the sessions can be reinstated under Sport England’s guidelines. We shall see, but in the meantime, the action to cancel the sessions, no doubt raises concerns that there is a lack understanding and care towards women in sport in the local administration. In the meantime you can sign the petition to reinstate the sessions here.

Post script:

I wrote this quickly having seen the petition on twitter. I just finished writing and saw this post. Yep.

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A Lotus Rises is the swimming blog for women who love open water from your first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming. We’re building a swimming collective on a mission to increase visibility, access and participation of women in swimming and we’d love you to be a part of it. Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and Instagram, – please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or  alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

 

 

SLSC Plunge Championship Practice

Tomorrow is the most hotly contested event in the South London Swimming Club calendar – The Plunge Championships, and today I accompanied some of SLSC’s elite swimmers in their training and preparation…

Plunge diving is a tradition that dates back to the 1904 Olympics. Basically you dive in and see how far you can float – no kicking or underwater swimming allowed.

The biggest issue I found was with keeping my goggles on.

However other swimmers were able to dive without even using their goggle straps #eliteplungeskills

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Whilst traditionally plunge diving is a solo event, today we achieved what we believe to be a world first: A 4 Person Plunge…

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As these pics demonstrate, tomorrows race is likely to be the toughest yet in SLSC club history, with race marshals needing to be vigilant of any attempts by competitors to gain unfair advantage…

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Unconfirmed reports that Dan A may have been edging forward at the bottom of the pool…

At A Lotus Rises we’re celebrating  women in open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming.

Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or  alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

 

Strete – Keepin’ it real on a beach bivvy with the Belles in Blue

After witnessing the worlds first circumnavigation of the Rock with No Name, it was time to celebrate… happily someone I’d never met before but who likes swimming was having a party on a beach – perfect!

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Beach party and the smallest dog in the world: Copyright Alice Gartland

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BBQ, small dogs, wind breakers, bonfire, disco lights, tents and bivvy bags… I’ve never slept on a beach before so was very excited to do so…

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Feeling intrepid in my compact and bijou MSR 1 person tent – JUST LIKE Bear Grylls – (just don’t tell anyone that there was a coffee shop 5 mins away) – Copyright Alice Gartland

And in the morning I was honoured to swim with the Belles in Blue at Strete Gate Beach…

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The Belles in Blue and their Bivvy Bags: Copyright Alice Gartland
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Captain Webb or Belles in Blue with seaweed moustaches?

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Thank you Tara and the Belles in Blue for a wonderful mini swimming adventure.

At A Lotus Rises we’re celebrating  women in open water, from your first splash, through to wild swims and marathon swimming.

Many more inspirational stories, advice and adventures can be found on our Blog, and Facebook page and please don’t hesitate to get in touch via Twitter or  alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

LOTUS Exclusive: A Circumnavigation of the Rock With No Name…

At around 20.00 hrs yesterday evening,  Jess and her dog Otley made their way down to Westcombe beach for a dip, with me, Alice, official observer from the swim blog for women who love open water – A Lotus Rises.

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Jess on the rocks! Photo copyright: Alice Gartland

Some people may think this was just two friends and a dog going for an evening swim and picnic amongst the Monet like cliffs of the Devon coast, but no…

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Looking out to the Rock With No Name (it’s the little one that’s difficult to see that’s just in front to the big one)… Photo Copyright: Alice Gartland

Otley and the picnic were secured beach side, and we ventured out into the cool sea. Jess pirouetting on the sea covered rocks that she knows so well  (this is her local swimming pool).

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Ahead lay the Rock with no name, of which there are no official records of a circumnavigation… we estimated the swim to be about 10m in distance and best approached with a mixture of head up breast stroke and doggie paddle…

This breath taking footage captures this world first in wild swimming…

And this – doggie paddle to the finish…and diving off the island in celebration – Well done Jess – Epic swimming times!

Then we headed back to the beach for a crudette avec dip supper, and a petit vino, whilst wrapped up in warm jackets and woolly hats, before walking barefoot and muddy back home.

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Jess looking back to the beach in her OSS Dart 10k hat (rumour has it that Jess will be returning to the Dart in 2017… )

Continue reading LOTUS Exclusive: A Circumnavigation of the Rock With No Name…

Swim4miles. A Lotus Rises meets Coach, Boat Pilot and Loch Lomond expert Chris Sifleet

Chris Sifleet is an open water swimming coach based in Balloch near Loch Lomond. Chris was a County pool swimmer and transitioned to open water many years ago at age 13 and has completed solo swims of the English Channel 1976 and 1979 and two-way Windermere, Bala Lake, Torbay, Mewstone Rock to Torquay (first person), Weymouth to Lullworth cove and return (first woman) and many more. She now helps swimmers achieve their ambitions be that one mile or 21.6 miles in Loch Lomond and soon various locations across Scotland. She and her firm Swim4miles are partnering with the IISA Great Britain Ice Swimming Championships being held in Loch Lomond on Saturday 11th February, and along with her group and individual tuition is hosting a swim camp in Banff Scotland in September involving sea swims, castles and a ceilidh!

Why did you become a swim coach?

Well I had been out of swimming for several years through illness, but always maintained an interest and reflected very much on what swimming had done for me. For example, it increased my confidence and fitness and introduced me to lifelong friends that I am in touch with to this day – Who would not want any of that?

So I decided to share my experiences and love of swimming and help people achieve their aims and ambitions and try and instill in others the belief that anything is possible. I passed my level 1 and 2 open water coaching qualification and started coaching three years ago. I formed Swim4miles, took my piloting qualifications and moved to Balloch Loch Lomond where I run a bed and breakfast, so I can offer the whole package – swim, sleep and socialise!

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Emma Lister on her 6 hour qualifier in Loch Lomond. Photo copyright Chris Sifleet

What does Scotland and Loch Lomond offer to open water swimmers?

21.6 miles of beautiful scenery and a very challenging swim. The challenges are the weather; particularly wind directions. It can be very variable – sometimes it’s behind you, but at some point it will be in your face! There is also the temperature. In a good year it might be 16 to 18c, and in a poor year it can be as low as 13c. Because the bottom of the Loch undulates and there are many small rivers flowing off the hills the temperature can go up and down, which is why acclimatisation is very important. If you don’t want to swim the whole thing then there are various routes across and around the islands, which I map out on an individual basis.

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A swimmer enjoying the loch! Photo Copyright Chris Sifleet

Please describe some of your recent coaching successes.

I was very proud this year to coach the Arran Troonautics. A mainly female team with one chap swimming 16 miles from the Isle of Arran to Troon on the Scottish mainland, in aid of the Jo Walters Trust and the RNLI. There were two relay teams: ‘Clyde’, the non wetsuited team who gained recognition from the BLDSA; and ‘Firth’, the wetsuited team who were on a separate boat. There were a variety of abilities, so I had a busy time formulating training plans for the beginners as well as the more experienced swimmers. They all completed the swim and raised twenty five thousand pounds for charity.

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Troonautics swimming from Arran to Troon. Photo copyright Chris Sifleet

I also coached a lady who had done very little swimming and wanted to undertake a swim challenge in aid of MIND. We worked towards her swimming the three miles across Loch Lomond, which she did. We started off with stroke analysis and then I gave her a program of swims so she could swim the distance. She wore a shortie wetsuit and to help her acclimatise I recommended that she blow up a paddling pool in her back garden, fill it with cold water and sit in it for as long as she could stand through the winter! She was so proud of herself and that smile will stay with me for life! She raised seven hundred pounds for MIND.

How does the role of a boat pilot differ from that of being a coach?

I am responsible for the administration and safe running for the whole swim. I have my own boat so it is my responsibility to get the swimmer plus the boat to the start, and ensure that before and after care is dealt with efficiently. I am a qualified pilot and I have a co-pilot with me. I also have a medic and encourage the swimmer to bring along someone who knows them well. I can be responsible for feeding them etc if they have come alone.

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Swim Camp! Photo copyright Chris Sifleet

I need to make sure during the swim that the swimmer is not becoming hypothermic and I will pull a swimmer out of the water if I feel their health and wellbeing is compromised – We live to fight another day! It is a long sit on the boat, as it can take in excess of 15 hours to swim the length of loch Lomond, however the minutes at the finish of the swim when the swimmer gets out, realises what they have achieved and smiles, makes it all worthwhile!

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Coaching the Sunday Morning Swim Group. Photo copyright Chris Sifleet

What are you looking forward to most about working on the IISA Great Britain Ice Swimming Championships?

Very excited about this event. We have ‘tartanised’ it as much as possible and have a piper, highland dances and a Scottish Ceilidh in the evening. There are events where swimmers can challenge themselves and the temperature is likely to be a tad chilly. I am the one person cheering when it looks like snow! I am looking forward to introducing this wonderful Loch to people who have never been here before and hopefully renewing old acquaintances and making new friends.

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Loch Lomond. Copyright Chris Sifleet

 

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water: We celebrate their successes in the water, inspire others to embark on swimming adventures and raise awareness of the social and environmental issues that are entwined with our love of water.

You can get involved via the BlogFacebook, Instagram, Twitter @ALotus_Rises and alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

The name ‘A Lotus Rises’, comes from the Chinese proverb 芙蓉出水,“Out of the Water a Lotus Rises,” used to described strong beautiful women in water and overcoming challenges and coming into bloom.

The BIG Chill Swim! Event review by Helen Gilburt

With a backdrop of snow tipped mountains, there’s nowhere in England quite like Lake Windermere for a swimming gala. So like 100’s of others, last weekend I travelled to Low Wood Bay to take part in the Big Chill Swim. For anyone who has never been to a winter swim event or been put off by taking part in a ‘gala’ the Big Chill Swim is a prime demonstration of how eclectic and inclusive cold water swimming is. My first year I signed up for the 60m and 120m events but 3 events on, I’ve been building up and along with 2 shorter distances I was finally entered into the British 1 kilometre Championships.

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The Big Chill Swim, water a bracing 7.3 degrees: Photo Credit Helen Gilbert

The event kicked off on Saturday with the 450m endurance event. Yet again I asked myself – why does everything I enter have to start first thing in the morning?! Despite all the training, I always feel awash with nerves. It’s only when you get into the final briefing and take your allotted seat, when the opportunity for ‘just one more wee’ has finally passed that it’s time to go with the flow. For our group that meant a lot of banter and laughter enhanced with someone explaining to the younger age category sat opposite ours that “this is what you’ll look like in 5 years time!”

I can’t say it was a disaster (I took 3rd place in my age category) but it certainly wasn’t what I visualised. Perhaps the tell-tale sign that yet again the adrenaline had got the better of me and I’d gone off too fast was that 3 lengths in out of 15 all I could think about was how out of breath I was.

Between swims you often have quite a bit of time, but swimming is only part of what Big Chill Swim is. Like other events, I often travel on my own. This can seem a bit daunting at first but the common bond of winter swimming means there’s always someone to chat with. And if you’re not embroiled sharing stories with one of the many teams in attendance, there’s always the relay. Teams of 4, each member racing 30m for me is one of the highlights of the event. Not for the speed per se but the diversity and creativity of the fancy dress at play. You’ve heard of 4 lords a leaping, but can you imagine 4 turkeys swimming… not to mention the obligatory mankinis.

For many Saturday was completed with a buffet and barn dance at the fabulous Low Wood Hotel, but for me it was a burger and bed in preparation for the 1k event. Yes, as you’ve guessed, yet another early morning. Big Chill Swim is associated with the International Winter Swimming Association attracting participants from across the world. With two ladies from Finland, one from the US and one from Chile – our race was certainly a demonstration of that.

So what will I be taking from this year’s event? A gold, silver and bronze in 3 separate events and entry to the Big Chill Swim 1k club, learning how to sauna the Finnish way (on your back with your feet and hands in the air) but most importantly a growing group of friends to hang out with at next year’s event.

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Champion! Photo Credit: Helen Gilbert

 

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water: We celebrate their successes in the water, inspire others to embark on swimming adventures and raise awareness of the social and environmental issues that are entwined with our love of water.

You can get involved via the BlogFacebook, Instagram, Twitter @ALotus_Rises and alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

The name ‘A Lotus Rises’, comes from the Chinese proverb 芙蓉出水,“Out of the Water a Lotus Rises,” used to described strong beautiful women in water and overcoming challenges and coming into bloom.

New Blog: A Lotus Rises Meets Lynne Cox…We talk about her new book ‘Swimming in the Sink’, the power of love, and realising swimming dreams

Lynne Cox is an American long-distance open-water swimmer, motivational speaker, and author. Over the course of more than 35 years, spanning a period equal to 8 Olympic Games, Lynne has accomplished swims setting world records and opening borders, contributed to medical research, supported environmental causes, and inspired people to overcome great obstacles. She is best known for her swim across the Bering Strait from the United States to the Soviet Union 7 August 1987.

She twice held the overall record for the fastest crossing of the English Channel from England to France and has completed over 60 challenging swims around the world, including being the first woman to swim the Cooke Strait and first person to swim off Antarctica in 32 degree water, for 25 minutes!

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It is fair to say Lynne puts her heart in to everything, and in her latest book “Swimming in the Sink. An episode of the heart” Lynne tells the story of facing her biggest challenge ever – a broken heart – dealing with the grief of her parents passing, the loss of her beloved Labrador and diagnosis with atrial fibrillation, placing the real possibility of her own death before her.

As her world unravels, she becomes estranged from the water, but courage, patient determination, friendship and love take her on a healing journey, reconnecting her to her heart and mind, rebuilding and making her whole again.

Why did you want to write this book

My goal was to write a book that would help people in many ways. I explain the process that I went through to become an elite athlete, how the stress of life made me lose touch with my body and heart and how I nearly died. I write about the process I went through to recover my health so other people may adapt that process to their lives to recover from illness and thrive. 

What have you learned about life both in and out of the water from this journey of the heart?

I have learned that life is a gift and that it’s important to remember each day is precious. I have learned that love heals your heart. And there are many forms of love – romantic love, love of family, friends, love of the ocean, love for oneself, and love for other beings. Love is a powerful emotion and force that connects us and makes us happy we are alive

Your book explores the mind-body connection. How important is that for open water swimming?

The mind-body connection is essential for open water swimming. You have to be constantly aware of your body when you are making a long swim or a cold swim. You need to continuously monitor how your body is performing, to adjust your pace and you need to continuously maintain a positive attitude. 

“Each day I told my heart that I was happy that she was still a part of me, and I was grateful for her. I told her that she was strong and powerful and that she would endure like she always had. I told my heart that I loved her, that I always wanted her with me. We still had great things we would do together, and I wanted to do them wholeheartedly.” Lynne Cox, Swimming in the Sink

What advice do you have for other people embarking on new challenges, facing a broken heart or a loss of swimming mojo?

I would give different advice for the three things you’ve listed. If people are embarking on new challenges I would suggest they determine the level of their commitment to the challenge, figure out how much research they need to do, and focus their training to meet their goal. As for facing a broken heart, I think there are so many components to consider when people are doing that, and there are so many possibilities and options.

That’s why I wrote the new book because you can’t advise people in a few sentences. If people are losing their desire to swim the best thing they can do is to get out of the water, do something else, take a break, enjoy hiking, kayaking, going to the movies, do something different with friends. There will be a time when the water calls them back and it will be impossible for them to resist that invitation.

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What next for you? 

I am doing speaking engagements for: companies, physicians, libraries, and associations. I’ve begun to work on a new writing project, and I am swimming whenever and wherever I can as I continue to travel to promote Swimming in the Sink.

Finally, as you may be aware A Lotus Rises is working in partnership with the International Institute for swim Cake studies to answer the critical question: what is the best cake for optimum swim performance? What is your favourite swimcake and why?

A slice of moist rich dark chocolate cake with chocolate butter cream frosting was a swim cake that I’d dream about when I was doing a four hour ocean swim 🙂

Thank you Lynne!

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water: We celebrate their successes in the water, inspire others to embark on swimming adventures and raise awareness of the social and environmental issues that are entwined with our love of water.

You can get involved via the BlogFacebook, Instagram, Twitter @ALotus_Rises and alotusrises@gmail.com. We want to share your stories, so we can support you and inspire others!

The name ‘A Lotus Rises’, comes from the Chinese proverb 芙蓉出水,“Out of the Water a Lotus Rises,” used to described strong beautiful women in water and overcoming challenges and coming into bloom.

New Blog: A Swim Teaching Adventure Begins! #alotusrises

I love swimming. There aren’t many fundamental life skills, that can not only save your life, but also open the door to new friends, well-being, and adventures. Knowing the capacity for swimming and the swimming community to empower our lives both in and out of the water, for a long time, it has been my hope to apply what I’ve learnt since I started swimming again, and help other people access, enjoy and be safe in the water.

So, two weeks ago I completed the ASA Level 1 Teaching Aquatics qualification. From day 1 candidates were in the pool working as teaching assistants, alongside Level 2 teachers instructing students aged 5-9 years old with varying levels of swimming experience.

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Learning by doing – straight into the water to appreciate the different elements of the strokes. Photo Credit: Aquability TTC

It’s a busy week learning about the 4 strokes, gaining insights on interpersonal communication, the policy and legal frameworks in which swim teachers operate and of course getting in the pool supporting the teachers and also leading some parts of the sessions. Continue reading New Blog: A Swim Teaching Adventure Begins! #alotusrises

New Blog: Open Water Ladies Record Making North Channel Adventure and Oceans 7 Challenge. A Lotus Rises meets Vicki Watson

On 23rd June 2016, the Open Water Ladies Relay Team completed a 2 way crossing of the North Channel – a stretch of water famed for its cold temperatures and challenging currents in 28 hours and 25 minutes.

The swim is a story of 5 ordinary women Caroline, Louise, Vicki, Sarah & Clare who decided to do something extraordinary setting a number of records in the process: Fastest 2 way crossing of the North Channel, Earliest crossing of the North Channel, First 5 person 2 way relay crossing of NC, First all female 2 way crossing of the North Channel and First all British 2 way crossing of the North Channel.

Prior to signing up for the swim Vicki Watson had swum only in a wetsuit in open water.

“I had previously completed two long distance triathlons (The Outlaw), however, I did not learn to swim until 2011, and I had never got my head down and only swum front crawl for an hour, without resorting to a bit of breaststroke!”

A Lotus Rises spoke to Vicki to find out more about her adventure and what it takes to make a record breaking relay team a reality. Continue reading New Blog: Open Water Ladies Record Making North Channel Adventure and Oceans 7 Challenge. A Lotus Rises meets Vicki Watson