Category Archives: Social Impact

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

JENBO JETS, SET FOR GENEVA

Next week four women from London’s Serpentine Swimming Club – the JENBO Jets  – will be swimming the length of Lake Geneva to raise funds for both lifeguards saving refugees, and local peacebuilders who protect and rebuild lives shattered by conflict.

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Natasha is fundraising for Peace Direct – an NGO with 12 years’ experience supporting local peacebuilders worldwide who find their own solutions to conflict and build long-lasting peace: https://www.justgiving.com/fundraising/Natasha-Dyer 
Emily is fundraising for Lifeguard Hellas who haul refugees out of the water, saving them from sinking boats near the island of Lesvos.
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We spoke to Natasha about why she’s doing this and what it involves:

This swim will be the ultimate test in endurance for me, but local peacebuilders dedicate their lives to helping people overcome war and violence to build brighter futures and long-lasting peace. The energy, commitment and resilience they show in enabling people to forge a new path out of violence and tragedy is remarkable, and thinking of their daily sacrifices will certainly help keep me going during tough points in the swim.

Its 69km and will take us between 24 to 35 hours depending on the weather and swim conditions.

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Training tips and strategy
As we all swim at roughly the same speed, we’ve trained by swimming regularly together over the last few months, so it helps maintain our pace and fitness. We’ve also done swims where we get in and out of the water repeating one hour swims as we will do across Lake Geneva, to test our ability to battle the cold and fatigue. Luckily our swim captain is a physio so she takes care of any injury niggles, but ultimately the key to a strong team is constant communication. Planning and training together has allowed us to identify what we need and discuss each other’s fears and weaknesses, so we can develop strategies to tackle them. As well as bonding of course!
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Cake!

As you know, at a Lotus Rises, we are working in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies on a groundbreaking research project to answer the question “What is the best cake for optimal swim performance”. What  SwimCake will you be taking across Lake Geneva?

I will take banana bread – delicious and nutritious after a choppy swim. But we will also have cookies and chocolate tiffin!

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Finally, just a thank you to our swimming friends and groups that are supporting us to do this, and the generous friends, family and colleagues who have donated to help us across. Like any challenge, you can never do it alone, so we are hugely grateful to all that have donated, given tips, supplies or good luck wishes. We promise to give it our all!
Go Smash it JENBO Jets. Wicked, wicked, BOOM!
 

At A Lotus Rises is a community of women who inspire and are inspired by a love of open water.  From the 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!

Swimming Robben Island, A Lotus Rises Meets Natasha Dyer

Natasha Dyer is a London-born and based open water swimmer, working as a communications specialist for international development, focused in Africa. She is passionate about social justice and ensuring people have equal access to quality education. She’s currently conducting research into the drivers of conflict behind xenophobic violence in South Africa.

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On May 4th 2016, she swam 11.3km around Robben Island, becoming one of less than 10 women to have completed this swim. This was her first swim over 10k and in challenging temperatures of between 13 and 16 degrees.

A Lotus Rises spoke to Natasha to find out what it takes to break through the 10k barrier, acclimatisation and the story behind her inspiring swim!

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Natasha and her swim crew!

What’s your swimming background?

I always loved swimming, especially in the sea, but had never considered taking up open water as a challenge until I moved to South Africa in 2010 and was looking for ways to fundraise for the educational charity I was working for. The first South African to ever swim the Channel Peter Bales, suggested I swim the 7.5km crossing from Robben Island to Cape Town (Big Bay). I initially thought he was crazy but then I met the rest of the Cape Town open water swimming community and never looked back! I completed that swim on my second attempt (1st go I was pulled out 500m before the shore due to hypothermia) but when I moved back to London I let my inner fish lie flat for a while, while I did other things. Luckily, last year I joined the Serpentine swimming club, a collection of weird and wonderful people, and my swimming took off again! 

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Why did you choose a circumnavigation of Robben Island?

This year I set a goal for myself of swimming over 10km in open water. As South Africa was where it all began for me, and I knew there were several 10k+ swims around Cape Town, I wanted to do it there. Robben Island is of course a very significant landmark, as its where Nelson Mandela and many other struggle heroes were imprisoned for almost 30 years during apartheid. It was quite something to contemplate while swimming around it. Definitely provided motivation, as did swimming towards Table Mountain! 

 I was in town to be a bridesmaid for my swim buddy’s wedding and with all the celebrations had given up hope that I’d get a swim in before leaving. Especially as the crossing I’d planned to attempt – from Robben Island to Three Anchor Bay – was off the cards because of a recent storm damaging the landing area. However, the day before my skipper Derrick Frazer – head of Big Bay lifesaving club  and the man who had pulled me out when I was hypothermic during my first crossing (and thus saved my life) – suggested swimming around the island, so I jumped at the chance! It was all pretty last minute, but I think that’s the way to approach it as you can never be sure a swim will actually happen. I was pretty nervous about the temperature and whether my mind was up to the challenge, but everything happened so serendipitously, I knew I had to make it! 

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The water temperature ranged between 13-16 degrees. It’s also famed for having a few exciting inhabitants. How did you prepare to swim in those temperatures and were you nervous about sharks at all – if so how did you overcome that?

The sea life on the day was amazing. On our way out to the island we met a pod of more than 100 dolphins. It was such a thrill to see them jumping in and out of the water at breakneck speed! During the swim my crew also saw penguins, seals and a couple of whales! People always think of great whites in the Atlantic, and they are there, but are hardly ever seen around Robben Island as they prefer the warmer waters at Seal Island and around Fish Hoek where the seals, are found. Occasionally they mistake surfers for seals in the waves, but human attacks are pretty rare. We just hear a lot about them when they do. People like to hype up the shark element to Cape Town swimming to make it sound impressive, but the truth is that the cold is the biggest challenge. 

Saying that, the thought does sometimes enter your mind that you might meet something, so you have to push it out and carry on. At the beginning of my swim, I had to skirt quite a lot of jellyfish which freaked me out at first. But I soon realised they weren’t stinging, so I focused on avoiding the kelp (thick sea weeds) instead! 

In terms of training, I swam at the Serps during the winter, where the temperature got down to 3 degrees at one point, so I felt fairly acclimatised to the cold. I’d done a half an hour sea swim the week before however and felt pretty shivery, so I was still nervous. And on the day, it definitely was cold! 

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Was the swim difficult to organise independently? What logistic considerations were there? Who were your support crew and what role did they play in this swim?

I was lucky, as I already knew the people who could make it happen quickly. I had submitted my forms to the Cape Long Distance Swimming Association who verify the swim, but my skipper organised the logistics. If you’ve never done a swim like this, its wise to connect with an experienced skipper who can help beforehand and brief you to make sure all you need to worry about on the day is swimming! 

You can’t underestimate the importance of having a good support crew. As said, Derrick was my skipper and my second was my great friend and newlywed Zani Taitz, who swam the second half with me. It was a great boost, as I was definitely cold when she got in and its always nice to swim with someone, especially friends. Looking up at dear people that had helped me get into the sport, cheering me on and enjoying it as well was such a thrill. Also the thought of how good I’d feel at the finish and how happy I’d be to tell my Serps teammates, with whom I’ve signed up to swim across the Channel and Lake Geneva this year. So I (literally) gritted my teeth and just kept swimming!  

What advice do you have for any other swimmers wanting to break through the 10k barrier?

A month or so before, I’d gone on a swim camp organised by Nick and Sakura Adams, very experienced open water swimmers who do an enormous amount to prepare aspiring Channel and other open water swimmers to succeed. During the camp, we’d done a 10km straight session in the 25m pool which, although brutal, had shown me that I could swim the distance in one go. 

Having done other sea swims before also helped, especially because the sea is very different to river swimming. The salt water dehydrates you and makes your throat quite sore and you have to learn to swim in the waves. Completing other swims had also showed me I could stay in for a while and cope with the cold, though I knew it’d be tough. I just thought about how far I’d come from that first Robben Island crossing. There’s no magic formula however, just time in the water, learning from other experienced swimmers, gritting your teeth and enjoying it! 

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What next?!

As mentioned, in August I’m swimming in a relay across the Channel and in September another across the 69km Lake Geneva. Next year I’m considering swims around the bottom of Africa at Cape Point (where sharks are more common), between the Fjords in Norway, crossing the Gibraltar straits or swimming at Alcatraz! But I haven’t decided yet. For me, a huge part of open water swimming is not just about testing my limits of duration, distance and mental strength, but also getting to explore different parts of the world and its nature through swimming. 

As you know, at A Lotus Rises, we are working in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies on a groundbreaking research project to answer the question “What is the best cake for optimal swim performance?”. What is your preferred Swim Cake and why?

The best swim cake I’ve had so far is the Guinness chocolate cake fellow swimmer and butterfly swim nutter Sam Mould made for my birthday. It melts in your mouth and is absolutely divine. What a great study! Please invite me to try the shortlist.

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Thank you Natasha!

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!

Splash! The Swimming Initiative Empowering Lives In An Out Of The Water in Hong Kong

Simon Holliday has lived in HK for two years and has spent a lot of that time swimming in the surprisingly beautiful waters around Hong Kong. He is a Channel swimmer and became the second person to swim from HK to Macau in 2014. Last year he co-founded Splash – a swim school for Foreign Domestic Workers and under-privileged young people in Hong Kong. A Lotus Rises spoke to Simon and Naive, a recent Splash! graduate to find out more about this fantastic initiative that is empowering women both in and out of the water.

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Splash! From the Pool…
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…To Open Water!

What is Splash?

Splash conducts free learn-to-swim and water safety courses for targeted communities who may not have access or financial resources for swim lessons. 

Taught by experienced coaches in a supportive group setting, Splash swimmers learn an important life skill while developing confidence and well-being both in and out of the water.  We are a bunch of volunteers – some with a coaching background some without – who wanted to share the sport we love.

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Why did you found Splash?

Foreign Domestic Workers play a pivotal but under-appreciated role in Hong Kong society.  They are required to live with their employers in invariably tiny living quarters. They have no legal rights in Hong Kong.  Should they lose their job, they are required to leave Hong Kong within two weeks. They make a huge sacrifice to work in Hong Kong, leaving children, extended family and friends behind in The Philippines, Indonesia and elsewhere in Asia.

They work six days a week and on their ONE day off many congregate in the central business district and other open areas sitting on pieces of cardboard, playing cards, sharing food and catching up with friends.  We felt some of these women would like the opportunity to use this time to learn a life skill.  Swimming has been such an important part of my life and we wanted to share our love of the water with others.  It is quite a selfish activity really as we (the coaches) seem to get at least as much enjoyment from the sessions as the participants!

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What impact does it have?

Last year we helped nearly 200 Foreign Domestic Workers to learn to swim.  We have also seen some of our swimmers go on to compete in open water competitions.  These were women who had just learned to swim competing against people who had swam all their lives.  They fail and succeed with a smile on their faces and are always willing to give it a try.

But swimming is really just the vehicle.  We have seen participants grow in confidence out of the water.  Friendships develop.  And more people are joining a small but growing open water community. 

What are your hopes for the future?

This year, we hope to help nearly 700 Foreign Domestic Workers learn to swim.  We are also developing programmes for under-privileged young people.

Longer term, we hope to continue to build swimming communities in parts of Hong Kong and other countries in Asia.  

Congratulations to the Splash Winter 2016 graduates!

 

Naive Gascon, a recent Splash! graduate also shares her experience. Naive joined Splash as a beginner swimmer and now regularly enjoys 4km swims in open water.

Why did you participate in Splash?

I participated in Splash because i really wanted to learn how to swim. When I got here in Hong Kong, I looked for opportunities to grow, learn things and have fun on my day off. Before, I participated in free learning stuff offered from different organization such as Yoga, Cooking, etc.  and then Splash came. Swimming just captured my heart!

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Naive flying out of the water!

What did you gain from participating in Splash?

Friends, happiness, fun. It has boosted my self esteem and given a sense of “belongingness”, which I struggled with when I first got here. I also learnt a lot from people I met, which is pretty awesome. The  short time since learning learned how to swim has shaped me not just physically, but also as a human being. There is so much love in Splash. 

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Naive at the end of an open water swim training session with Hungarian marathon swimmer Manyoki Attila

How can people support Splash?

We need more volunteer coaches, more pairs of goggles and more money to offer more free learn to swim programmes.  Details of lessons, coaching opportunities and how to make a donation can be found here .

 

 

 

Swimming Diplomacy 游泳外交 “Yóuyǒng wàijiāo”

Tomorrow I fly to China to Swim…

300m in Daming Lake, at sub 5 degree temperatures, with hundreds of other swimmers from China and across the globe, at the 5th International Winter Swimming Festival, in Jinan City, Shandong Province, North China.

I love how swimming adventures pop up as if from nowhere; yet somehow reveal a hidden logic that joins once disparate dots from across your life, together.

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Karaoke, Beijing 2008

 

China has been a part of my life for almost two decades. I first went to China in 1996 to teach English as part of my ‘Gap Year’. Since then, I have had the opportunity to study, live and work in the country on a number of occasions and have been fascinated by the countries economic and social development.

My last visit to China was in 2008, when I working as a lawyer in Beijing. It was amazing to be living in the city at the time of the Olympics.

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It was the performance of female British swimmers Keri-Anne Payne and Cassie Patten in the Open Water Swimming events at Beijing 2008 that helped start the growth of open water swimming in the UK.

In 2010 I swam my first mile and open water swimming is now my big passion in life.

Finishing my first 1 mile swim at Ullswater 2010

The human body is 90% water and 71% of the earth’s surface is covered in water. It’s what sustains us and connects individuals and communities across the globe; yet our never ending rush for advancement means the world is facing a fresh water crisis and our oceans are being decimated, etching the battle lines of the future on a fragile liquid landscape.

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River Crossing, Zhejiang Province 2003

It’s easy to get swept up in political and commercial agenda, and sometimes it feels we are at risk of forgetting that behind the brands, policies and rhetoric are people; each of us made of that same 90% water.

Now, more than ever it is time to remember that essence; our shared humanity.

Like many people, when I swim, I feel free. I am in my element and global and personal agenda falls away.

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Freedom! Enjoying a Sunset Swim off the Jetty at Waternish, Isle of Skye (Photo Copyright Gill Williams)

It is a great honour to have been invited to swim in Jinan. I am really excited to return to China and rather than work or study, to be celebrating my passion for water with new Chinese friends and the wider international swimming community.

My favourite Chinese proverb is ‘芙蓉出水’ (fúróng chūshuǐ) meaning ‘Out of the Water a Lotus Rises’ The proverb is used to describe strong beautiful women in water, and also overcoming challenges and coming into bloom, and inspired the poem that I wrote for Amy Sharrock’s Swimmers’ Manifesto in Summer in summer 2014.

That meaning resonates with me deeply and inspired the creation of this blog, ‘A Lotus Rises’ which is part of an online community, dedicated to women who inspire and are inspired by a love of water.

The symbol of Jinan is a lotus, and they rise up out of the water of Daming Lake. I am really excited to bring together all these different elements of my life by participating in the festival.

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From Beijing I will travel to Jinan, then to Shanghai and Hong Kong and on to Sydney and Tasmania.

Tomorrow marks the start of a journey connecting friends, personal, social and intellectual passions, swimscapes, landscapes, communities, and family history… and I am sure many more things I cannot anticipate; all the way to Tasmania…

‘芙蓉出水‘(fúróng chūshuǐ) ‘Out of the Water a Lotus Rises’.

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UK swimming – the Henley Bridge to Bridge  2015- TEAM!

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who love 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!

The Mermaid of the Solent

Deborah Herridge started open water swimming in summer 2013 and has just completed a 14 mile two-way Solent swim, raising funds for three charities close to her heart, The Oakley Waterman Caravan Foundation who provide holidays for children with life-threatening illnesses, Cancer Research and Canine Partners. Inspired by the London 2012 Paralympics to get fit and to try and raise funds for good causes through swimming, she has raised nearly £10,000 for charity in the past few years and motivated many in the open water swimming community along the way.

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The wonderful Deborah Herridge – Quantum of Solent II complete! (credit Deborah Herridge)

Why did you want to do a two way Solent Swim? 

Last summer (2014) I swam a new route across the Solent, a 7 mile swim from Ryde on the Isle of Wight to Hill Head Sailing Club on the English mainland. We had near perfect conditions, a flat calm sea, a beautiful sunrise at the start, warm air and sea, around 18C and it all went really well. I enjoyed it so much that at the end I thought, “hmmm, that wasn’t too bad, I wonder if I could swim a longer distance…?” The seed was planted.

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(Credit Deborah Herridge)

That Autumn I did lots of research on English Chanel swimming, and sought lots of advice from previous Channel swimmers, and decided to go for it. Life is for living, why not! So I booked my solo for 2017 and started planning The Quantum of Solent II. The swim was meant as a stepping stone – if I could successfully swim two thirds of the distance of the English Channel by swimming two widths of the Solent without too much injury; I reckoned my shoulders may be able to have a bash at swimming across the big one.

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In Her Element (Credit Deborah Herridge)

I know the EC is a different ball game all together though, but I think the conditions for the latter leg of the Quantum of Solent swim (a horrendous and un-forecast F5-6 with white caps for the last 3+ hours) was great training for how unpredictable the English Channel can be. It is a mental challenge as well as a physical one, and my head and body coped well considering the conditions, although I did want to stop a few times. I’ve heard a saying about the EC, “Prepare for the worst and hope for the best”. It seems apt.

What training did you do and how do you keep it fun?

I started training for the two-way swim on January 1st with a dip in the rather chilly Solent with 500 other New Year’s nutters. I was trying to swim throughout winter for the first time, as always just swimming in my swimming costume, which proved to be an exhilarating experience, if a little refreshing to say the least.The first tidal window to make the crossing in the complicated tidal flows of the Solent was on the 26th June.

My husband Robert writes all my training plans using a training method called Periodisation Training, where you work in three weekly cycles, light/medium/heavy, and they build in intensity as the time goes on. So I started going to the pool 3-5 times a week as well as a couple of short sea swims to keep acclimatised until it got warmer, and the pool sea swims would then transfer to the sea.

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…And she did! (credit Deobrah Herridge)

We also have help, advice and swim coaching from Danny Bunn, who has been working with Robert to devise pool and open water interval sets which have made me stronger, faster and fitter.

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TEAM! (Credit Deborah Herridge)

How do I keep it fun? I love it all, I love the intensity, the hard work, how my mind will clear when I swim, I love it when it’s so tough I feel my heart is going to burst out of my chest, I love the feeling that swimming brings, so I guess I find all that fun. And I love swimming in the sea with friends. Some of my longest training sessions took place in some very challenging conditions, but I had many pals from my local swimming group, The Shack Sharks, who trained with me and having their company through the long sessions (the longest being 5 hours 20) and having them beside me made it much more fun.

The ever changing conditions keep one feeling alive as well, and my favourite swims are in the rain, nothing more special than being rained on whilst swimming.

How was the swim? What were the highs, the lows – we hear you fitted in a tumble turn?!

There were many highs, the anxiety at the start, the elation of the finish, the first third of the swim was wonderful, but the latter part was hell.

I started off feeling very nervous. My pals were there to support me and help me get ready, and they were there to make me smile and try and relax me, but there was an ominous feeling in tummy, a fear that the swim may be cancelled again if the weather changed.

It had been postponed back in June when I was standing at the waters edge at 3am ready to swim, when the wind had picked up and visibility was very bad with a sea mist rolling in, so the pilot called it off – in hindsight it was for the best safety wise but I was gutted to say the least at the time.

To be so ready to go, fit and healthy, my injured arm having healed well, bursting with energy, and then not be able to swim, and then try and keep up the fitness for the next two months was a challenge to say the least, physically especially, but most of all mentally, to stay focussed. But on this day, the day the big swim would go ahead, the weather seemed perfect, it was sunny and fairly warm, very little wind, but the sea felt very fresh at 16.5C. The summer hadn’t been that great and the Solent hadn’t warmed up as much as the previous year…

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Awesome! (Credit Deborah Herridge)

The first hour went very fast, I remember remarking on the first feed what a wonderful day it was! I should have remained quiet…I got to Ryde much quicker than anticipated, in 2 hours and 44 minutes, I did a quick tumble, (what had originally been meant as a visual humour on the map had turned into a real thing as a bet to get more sponsorship), cleared the water and then started on my longer than foreseen journey back….The ‘lows’ were about to happen.

People were watching the tracker online and thought I’d be back much earlier than expected at the pace I’d swam the first leg on, little did we all know about the winds that were to spring up. The sea changed from calm first it was small gentle bobbing waves, I had to swim against the tide for an hour or so, I kept thinking I wasn’t getting any further away from the main landmark around here, the Spinnaker Tower, and remarked about it, to be told that everything was fine, when in fact I really wasn’t moving very far.

Then the winds came, creating such big swells and waves which constantly slapped at my face arms and back and chilled me to the bone. I knew now that my feet had turned blue, I had looked at them on one of my feeds, I had lost all feeling in them, and my hands were starting to feel slightly numb with the wind chill. I really wanted to stop a few times, and said so more than once, but my brilliant crew, Captain Chris Godfrey, my husband Robert, Caroline Crolla and Heather Massey kept me motivated and encouraged me to go on.

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Deborah and crew! (Credit Deborah Herridge)

I couldn’t see much, the waves were so big, but eventually we neared land and I started to recognise buildings. When eventually the sailing club came into view in the distance I felt a surge of energy, enough to get me to the end, one of my shoulders felt very painful, but it all went when I saw my buddies from the Shack Sharks in the water!

Sharon,Lorraine and Oliver had come to swim in with me, it was a wonderful feeling, knowing people were there to support me. Then I saw all the people at the sailing club, friends from The Oakley Waterman charity, neighbours, swim pals, I must admit to filling up a little in my goggles. I was near now, very near, not far to go at all, I couldn’t quite believe I’d done it, then I heard a little commotion, some shouts, and didn’t actually see the sailing boat come past me, from the video it looks like it got very close to my head, that would have been a dramatic ending indeed!

Then I saw pebbles beneath me, I knew I was in the shallows now and could see the waves lapping the beach and hear the muffled cheers and applause through my ear plugs. I went to stand up, and promptly fell down… My legs had turned to jelly. I tried again, and fell back into the water.

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EPIC! (Credit Deborah Herridge)

I heard “Come on Deborah! You can do it! Clear the water!” And I did. I then fell into the arms of my buddies Paula and Jeannie. I believe I was heard saying “never again!!!”. But the memory of the pain goes, and new adventures are planned.

I’m happy to say that the swim was recognised by the BLDSA as an inaugural record.

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(Credit Deobrah Herridge)

What have you learnt from this swimming journey?

So many things.That I’m stronger than I thought, mentally and physically.

I once saw a 10k at Eton Dorney and thought I could never do a swim that long, but anything is possible, two years later I did 22k.

That swimmers are amazing, kind, helpful, welcoming and resourceful folk.

That swimming is a happy drug, I’ve never been happier and healthier, and when I don’t swim I get very sad. It probably sounds weird, but I feel like I’m meant to be in the sea. Maybe I was a fish in a previous life.

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Mermaid and here’s the medal to prove it! (Credit Deborah Herridge)

 

What advice do you have for anyone thinking about taking up open water swimming?

Go for it. You won’t regret it.

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Sunset Swimming Joy! (Credit Deborah Herridge)

And finally, what’s your favourite swimming costume and where is your favourite swim spot (although perhaps we know the answer to that!)?

My green mermaid costume, and I have two places, not surprisingly, the Solent and I also love the beautiful clear waters around the Isle of Mull and Iona. I’ve been holidaying there for ten years but only plucked up the courage to swim this summer, it was magnificent.

You can follow Deborah’s journey from the Solent to the English Channel here.

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who love 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!

 

 

These Girls Can…Swim With Seals!

Jane Hardy  set up an open water swimming initiative to introduce twelve women to open water swimming, culminating in a fantastic sea swim with seals.

“Open water swimming is not a traditional mainstream sport, so the girls didn’t have a history of failure which often stops young women taking part in activities.

Sometimes young women have poor body image, low self esteem and bad experiences from PE at a younger age, so they simply give up on the idea of participating in sport and that is desperately sad.

This is new and exciting (swimming with wild atlantic grey seals has a wow factor, doesn’t it?); Perfect for #thisgirlcan

Here’s the inspiring film about the project; A Lotus Rises spoke to Hardy to find out more…

Why did you set up this initiative?

I’m a community Sports Officer for ActiveNorthumberland and my job is to break down barriers to participation in sport and to encourage 14-25 year old females who are inactive to take part in exercise to develop healther lifestyles, mental wellbeing etc.

Was it easy to organise? How did you get support and funding?

It wasn’t easy to organise. It took hours of planning behind the scenes – in particular considering every risk or hazard and making the correct decisions to maximise the girls safety. As far as I’m aware, I’m the first to organise such a programme.

I am a level 2 British Triathlon Coach qualified to coach in open water. I’m also a volunteer Coastguard so I have excellent local knowledge which I could incorporate into my planning and share with the participants.

I’ve also completed the RLSS National Open Water Safety Management Programme Supported by my employer and funded by Sportivate I was able to deliver the programme.

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These Girls Can! Credit Jane Hardy

How does the project relate to #ThisGirlCan and what does that mean to you?

I’m passionate about open water swimming so to have the opportunity to share this with 12 young women was like all my birthdays came at once.

Open water swimming is not a traditional mainstream sport so the girls didn’t have a history of failure which often stops young women taking part in activities.

Sometimes young women have poor body image, low self esteem and bad experiences from PE at a younger age so they simply give up on the idea of participating in sport and that is desperately sad.

This is new and exciting (swimming with wild atlantic grey seals has a wow factor, doesn’t it?); Perfect for #thisgirlcan

These Girls Can. Credit Jane Hardy
These Girls Can. Credit Jane Hardy
One of the seals. Credit Jane Hardy
One of the seals. Credit Jane Hardy

Please tell us about the participants? What were their motivations for starting in open water and what did they gain from the experience?

The participants varied in age from 14-25 and were all female. Most were taking to the open water for the first time. Some were at school, some had just left and were waiting to go onto further education and some were working.

They took part for a variety of reasons : To conquer the fear of the unknown (what’s lurking beneath the surface), to get fit, to make new friends, to gain confidence, to try something different, to progress from pool swimming….the list was endless.

These Girls Can Swim With Seals
These Girls Can Swim With Seals

How did the seals react to a whole load of excited swimmers in their neighbourhood?

The seals on the Farne Islands are unique in that historically dive boats visit the islands daily all year round. They are used to divers and so we weren’t unusual or a threat.  Having the paticipants in the water was no different from any other day. Seals are naturally curious and inquisitive so they swam around the girls confidently – we were in their waters and they are much better swimmers than we are so they simply came as close as they wanted as and when they wanted.

I’m a volunteer marine mammal medic for the British Divers Marine Life Rescue. I am trained to assist with marine mammal strandings (including seals) and I was able to educate the girls about seal behaviour and ensure there was mutual respect between human and seal. We didn’t climb onto the islands where the seals were resting. We didn’t approach them. We didn’t swim in the mating season or the calving season so we ensured minimal disturbance to their natural behaviour.

 

These Girls Can Swim With Seals - And so can you!
These Girls Can Swim With Seals – And so can you!

What advice do you have for any women thinking about getting into open water?

I would encourage anybody interested to look for a local social open water swimming group.

If they post on the Outdoor swimming Society and share there location, then there is always a friendly swimmer willing to share the love of the open water. There are usually tri clubs who offer open water swimming coaching too.

I would advise to absolutely never swim alone. Find someone who can read the tides and who knows the local waters. The waters in the UK are cold so I would suggest hiring a wetsuit intially too.

These Girls Can Swim with Seals

Will you be running other courses like this? If people want to create their own initiatives around the UK, where is the best place to start?

Given the success of this initial programme I would love to be able to deliver again. Ideally not exclusively to 14-25 year olds and inclusive of men too. I’m not sure about the best place to start – insurance will be an issue and I obviously had that covered through my employer.

Social meets where folk swim at their own risk are possibly best which is why I suggested the outdoor swimming society.

The thing I liked best about the programme is the fact that it was not for profit.

It would be sad to see the growth of folk charging for something which should be wild & free. 

Wild swimming, not expensive swimming, that’s my vision.

And finally, where’s your favourite swimming cossy and what is your favourite swim cake?

I love zoggs. I’m a bit busty and tall and they have cossies which suit my shape.

Favourite cake has to be lemon drizzle any day 🙂

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who love 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!

CAKE UPDATE

It’s been almost two weeks since we announced our groundbreaking research project in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies (IISCS).

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Our mission? To resolve one of the toughest questions in open water swimming: What is the best cake for optimum swim performance?

The response from the cake eating…sorry… we mean swimming community; to submit scientific data for our project, has been phenomenal.

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From the salt water of Spain…

JCR swim

 

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Swim Quest, Ray Gibbs from Swim Canary Wharf and team, having a really tough time on the frontline of #swimcake studies in Formentera.

To training pools of Australia…

@mullycron 13th October 2015

To London’s Lido community

Ruth Corney and Caitlin Davies, Gospel Oak 13th October 2015
Gospel Oak with Caitlin Davies & @RuthCorney
Caitlin Davies and Ruth Conroy 13th October 2015
Caitlin Davies lead the charge facilitating #swimcake data submissions from all over London, including this of Hampton pond – Thanks @ruthcorney!

To the Lake District…

Val Smith of #ThisGirlCan 'Val versus Cake" enjoying peanut butter energy bars and a dip
Val Smith of #ThisGirlCan ‘Val versus Cake” and team enjoying a triple dip in the Lakes powered by Bllueberry Muffins

And Italian fresh water lakes

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Thanks Becky and SwimLab!

To the rewards of the  Golden Gate Bridge…

A hard earned Peanut butter cheesecake.
A hard earned Peanut butter cheesecake.

IISCS research fellows have been putting themselves on the frontline – no matter how far they had to swim or how much cake they had to eat.

Brockwellswimmers early research feedback
Brockwell Swimmers early research proving messy
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Team Mermaids swam 4k for these cupcakes #commitmenttothecause

Yes endurance sports can be tough, but with the right team , physical and mental preparation, anything is possible #nevergiveuponyourdreams.

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It can be tough on the frontline

Amy Sharrocks’ Baked Alaska also brought an awareness of global warming…

Amy Sharrocks 13 October 2015

And @Loveswimming’s cakes were certainly made with a cause – to raise money for her local swim club.

Cake from @loveswimming
Cake from @loveswimming

Of course, early on in a project like this it can seem like there’s an impossible mountain to climb, but one of the great things about the open water swimming community is that there are always friendly people around to inspire and guide you.

We were particularly grateful for Oceans 7 and Farallon Islands swimmer Kimberley Chambers‘ kind words:

“I applaud your perseverance. And thank you for pursuing this pressing issue :)” Thanks Kim!

Swim Cake
Swim Cake

We’re learning so much from these selfless #swimcake endeavours.

For example the Swim The Eden Wild Swimming Brothers, favoured Batternberg for their epic swim – “With wet fingers the marzipan keeps the cake dry”

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And Beth French will be relying on Chocolate Coconut brownie for her world record setting Ocean’s 7 in 1 Year Challenge.

More info on the latest scientific #swimcake data can be found on the Institute of International Swim Cake Studies Facebook page and via @SwimCakeStudies on twitter –

Of course it can be daunting on the SwimCake frontline, but your Swim Cake data is critical, so please get in touch with details of your selfless #SwimCake endeavours – Together: Yes. We. Can.

Thank you!

A Lotus Rises in partnership with the International Institute for Swim Cake Studies

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Oceans 7 in 1 Year

In September 2016, British Endurance Swimmer Beth French will commence her world record setting challenge to swim the Oceans Seven in one year. She will be swimming to highlight the relationship humans have with our fragile but vital oceans, looking at environmental issues in the marine ecology as she goes.

French is no stranger to overcoming incredible challenges. In 1993 ME had caused her to be wheelchair bound, but she recovered after almost a decade since contracting this debilitating syndrome. As such, she has, “different parameters for coping.”

Her previous swims include, the English Channel, the Molokai Channel – a British female first and the 26 mile Scilly Island Channel from Cornwall to St Mary’s – a world first. A Lotus Rises spoke to French about this incredible challenge and the power of mind over matter both in and out of the water.

Beth Swimming XXX
Beth in her element

This is EPIC! What inspired you to undertake this challenge?

I concocted the mad notion that I could swim all oceans seven channels in a year when I was up a gum tree, about 5miles from completing my solo crossing of the Molokai channel in Hawaii.

A couple of miles earlier, I had hit a wall… Recent heart-break meant I fell off the wagon psychologically, and I’d been beating my pain into the water for about 7hrs before that. My left elbow had twinged previously and all of a sudden, I couldn’t move it at all. My left shoulder froze- I could no longer get it out of the water to swim front crawl, nor could I put any resistance through it via breaststroke.

But this channel swimming lark is not for the faint hearted (or sane) so I one arm doggy paddled the last 7 miles, which with the Pacific swells, took me a further 12 hrs.

I’m not ashamed of holding the longest crossing of the Molokai channel to date- I swam for 24hrs 10mins, non stop. I realised that I loved channel swimming, but wanted more than an expensive day trip- I wanted to see if I knew how to drive my body well enough to recover quickly for the next one…. And the next one…

Having recovered from ME, which is relentless, I have different parameters for coping, I guess.

Beth French

What order will you complete the swims? What are the logistical challenges?

The order I am attempting the channels is to begin with the north channel from Ireland to Scotland. I want that one in the bag – It’ll be the coldest and I don’t want to have to attempt that without a full tank of gas. Then the Catalina channel in California, then the Molokai channel, the Cook Straits of New Zealand, the Straits of Gibraltar, Tsugaru channel in Japan and finishing with the English Channel in time for my 40th birthday.

How do you prepare physically? What does your training schedule look like and how will you avoid injury and ensure you have time to recover between swims?

Preparing for something like this is a pretty individual thing – I train a lot less than people expect, due to my ex ME health and hyper mobility.

I can’t train twice a day, or even every day like some competitive pool swimmers. I’m a single mum, which actually helps with the mental training and dealing with sleep deprivation, so they are not new experiences. I have a very physical job, 9hrs of deep tissue massage back to back 3 days a week and I’ll go train after at least one of them to really get the endurance going.

I sporadically torture myself with random sets of say, an hour and a half legs only, or towing my son in a dinghy in the sea.

You use what you have, so I get my son to sit on my hips and do lengths of front crawl with a 7yr old on me- great resistance training and efficient use of time.

Avoiding injury would be nice- because of my job I am pretty clued up with body mechanics so I go to the gym a couple of times a week to work on specific areas that need strengthening.

I also avoid over training. In this kind of event, one channel becomes training for the next, so it’s a perpetual taper once you are in it.

Beth French

You were ordained as a Buddhist nun. Please can you describe the relationship between your meditation practice and swimming. In particular, the importance of mindset for endurance swims.

In my 20’s when I was wandering the world learning different indigenous answers to ME, I ordained as a Buddhist nun in Thailand in order to intensively study vipasanna meditation, which has been popularised as mindfulness.

The mind is such an incredible weapon, but without training it easily works against us. The monastery was such an amazing experience and taught me so much about inner strength.

Swimming is a dichotomy of sensory deprivation and overload at the same time. You are forced to come face to face with your internal workings both physically and mentally and it is invariably your emotions that end a swim. You are immersed in your experiences moment to moment so you have to have a really strong grip on how you handle highs and lows to ride them out regardless in order to keep going.

Euphoria may feel great, but allow it to bubble up too much and you’ll be exhausted the next minute or hit a depression and slump. Learning to shepherd your emotional state means you can channel anything back into your swim.

Beth French

After 6hrs, you rely on your mind about 50%, I reckon. After 12 hrs it goes up to 65% mind, then when you are talking 20+ hrs, I’d say 80% is mental. Think it and your body will follow.

As you know, at A Lotus Rises we are working in partnership with the International Institute of Swim Cake Studies (IISCS), on a global research project to answer the question: What is the best cake for optimum swim performance?  Please can you help us with this critical research – What is your cake of choice for your Oceans 7 Challenge?

I am happy to help with this important research.  My cake of choice is a malt chocolate coconut fudge brownie. You can read a blog post I wrote about that on my website here.

What’s your favourite swim spot and swimming cossy?

My favourite swim spot in the world is kealakekua bay on the big island of Hawaii. The water is so stunningly clear, spinner dolphins come in to play and it’s utter heaven.

In England, I think you’d have a hard job beating the Isles of Scilly. Gin clear water, stunning scenery.

Beth in her favourite cossy
Beth in her favourite cossy

My fave cozzie is a metallic fish scale print little number by the finals. I’ve seen an awesome one that has your internal organs printed on it- would love to get my hands on that! I enjoy a collection of novelty hats too, including a minion one that says have a nice day of the back of it and a good old candy skull one.

Thank you Beth and thank you for letting us be part of your wonderful adventure!

You can follow Beth’s incredible journey on Twitter and Facebook.

A Lotus Rises is dedicated to women who love 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!