Tonic of the Sea #alotusrises

Tonic of the Sea is a beautiful award-winning short film directed by Jonathan J Scott about open water swimmer Katie Maggs’ journey with mental health and her refreshingly honest account of falling into and recovery from burnout, anxiety and depression. Upon the incredible success of the film at 2018 Film Festivals and after being nominated for the BAFTA short films award Katie has gone on to write her first self-help book also titled ‘Tonic of the Sea’. Within her book and in the publishing of her writing in UK magazines she describes more details of her journey with mental health, crucial factors that supported her recovery and clear achievable suggestions to stay well in the future.

Picture By Emma Wink

Picture Credit Emma Winks

Katie will also be presenting at the Wild and Well Festivalin Bristol this coming October on the topic of ‘Nature Cures’ and is showing her film and discussing the chapters of her book at the Kendal Mountain Literary Festivalin November. There will also be an exhibition of her inspirational wild swimming photography in the small coastal town of Penzance, Cornwall at the beginning of the New Year.

For up to date details on the publishing of Katie’s book or to hear more about her current projects and upcoming exhibition you can do so through her website www.tonicofthesea.co.ukor by following her on Twitter and Instagram @tonicofthesea.

A Lotus Rises #WSC caught up with Jon and Katie to find out more about their collaboration.

How did the collaboration come about?

Katie: The collaboration with Jon came about from a swimming friend of mine who teaches at the same College – she saw a post Jon had put on a Wild Swimmers website searching for someone who had had difficulties with mental health or physical illness and had found the sea to be helpful in their recovery. My friend sent me the information and I emailed Jon to see if my story might be something that he was interested in. Luckily after a brief phone conversation he was.

Jon: As a travel and adventure filmmaker, I’m always drawn to unique stories that are connected to the outdoors. I had been hoping to get my latest project off the ground (or into the water…) for quite some time. But, due to logistical and technical difficulties, I had struggled. Having never shot underwater properly, I wanted to embark on a project that would challenge me both creatively and technically — goals this project certainly fulfilled. Having reached out to the UK’s wild swimming community via social media, I was inundated with requests from those who were keen to be involved. On speaking to Katie Maggs  I was immediately struck by her openness and honesty when talking about how she had struggled with mental health, and how wild swimming had helped here recovery. I knew immediately that I wanted to tell Katie’s story.

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What things did you have to consider as a film maker in addressing the issue of mental health and also how best to convey the relationship with the water?

Jon: When making a documentary I find its extremely important to let the story tell itself rather than trying to force out a story, my job as a film maker is to facilitate that storytelling and do my best to express it through a visual medium. Katie’s openness and honesty along with her passion for swimming meant that this was quite a natural process. Once we had shot everything, it was a matter of working with the footage and audio in the edit shaping it to best tell Katie’s personal story.

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What enabled you to share your story in this way?

Katie: To convey my mental health journey I just felt I had to be as honest as possible about what happened to my physical body and my mind. Everything had just collapsed through ‘burnout’, it was almost like my brain had turned itself off in a bid to protect itself from further damage.

 I was indecisive about sharing my story to begin with, I was concerned that people would think less of me, that I wasn’t capable to do my job anymore or to be a good Mum. I’ve always been an active independent person, positive and as fearless as possible when it comes to living life and experiencing new things. But all of that was slowly stopped through exhaustion and my body and mind gradually giving up.

 I wanted to share my story because the process of how it happened to me can so easily happen to other people. When we ‘do’ life every day we lose sight of allowing ourselves some quiet time or stillness. I was doing what I thought to be ‘normal’ I’d worked hard for a responsible job as a department deputy at a College, I was caring for my father before and after work, I was trying to exercise regularly but pushing my body to extremes in a bid to ‘be fitter’, trying to be a good Mum, a loving partner, all of the normal life stuff. I think if you are a kind, giving and empathic person and you feel things deeply, you can so easily start to fall out of balance.

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When did you realise that “all those have too s” had become too much?

 Katie: Looking back the warning signs had started to show. I often felt overwhelmed and teary, I became so unusually exhausted, even though I had slept well the night before. I was suddenly suffering with headaches, skin rashes, blurred vision and neck and shoulder pain. I kept going to the G.P with health concerns – asking for bloods to be checked, my eyes to be tested, moles to be examined that I was worried had changed. I can see now that the health anxiety was part of the deterioration of my mind (it was giving me warning signals, but I was unfortunately ignoring them). My once vibrant mind through so much stress, worry and sadness was gradually becoming dark. All the negativity in my life was coming out as physical symptoms in my body. Unfortunately, I realise now that when we are ‘busy’ and when busy is our norm we all try to keep ‘going’ and we ignore the warning signals that we are becoming dangerously overwhelmed.

The final health problem was that I developed restless leg syndrome that later transformed into Myaclonis of the larger muscle groups (Muscle Spasms). As my anxiety took hold and with the ongoing fear of my new and very alien condition unfortunately I deteriorated. I was so terrified by what was happening to me that I developed severe insomnia, becoming afraid to go to sleep as a result. I couldn’t escape the night time body spasms and in the early hours of the morning, sleep deprived and alone I felt like a stranger in my own body.  It was the loneliest experience of my life. I had lost control of my mind and it didn’t matter what I did, I just couldn’t find my way back.

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What advice do you have for anyone else in that position?

Katie: Advice I now offer to friends and family or even strangers at Battery Rocks is that we need to slow down and listen to our bodies when we are tired or feeling overwhelmed. It can be harder to try to fix things once they have got as far as mine did. All in all, my recovery took about a year. It came about through a mix of regular yoga, seeing a sleep therapist, low dosage anti-depressants, and most importantly my regular morning sea swimming. Here I was able to find myself again and rebuild what the breakdown had taken from me. Through meeting new and inspiring people at Battery Rocks and feeling part of a swimming community, I was able to rebuild my confidence in my body, my sense of self, my courage and my belief in who I was as a person. All these things were just for ‘me’ and about ‘me’ and before I had become unwell that is exactly what I had been missing.

 Before I suffered at the hands of burnout I wasn’t doing anything solely just for myself that meant that I rested, experienced joy or took some quiet time simply to get some daily clarity. I was giving out regularly, but I wasn’t putting anything back. With so many elements of worry in my life my mind had understandably become fatigued and overloaded. I realise now that the brain behaves like a muscle, it can become weary and overworked just like any other muscle in the human body. To protect it we must anticipate that negativity and stress is bound to occur but if we have factored in our daily ‘me’ time and cared for ourselves first then we will be better equipped to deal with whatever daily chaos comes our way. Protection from burnout can be achieved by factoring in time every day that is just about ‘you’ and ‘your’ happiness or creativity. If warning signals are there already them it is vital that you take drastic steps to pull back from as much as you possibly can in a bid to try to regain some balance in your life. Even small gradual changes can make all the difference in terms of how severe the outcome can be.

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What does your swim community mean to you?

Katie: The Battery Rocks swimmers changed my life, they provided me with new friends, people to lean on and learn new things from, I felt inspired by the older swimmers (some 80 +) who got in every day all year round in swimming costumes. Through conversations I slowly learnt that many of these people had experienced their own struggles in life, it helped me to feel less alone, more supported, and it gave me confidence that I too could get better.

Please describe your relationship with the water?

Katie: The sea reminds me that there is something bigger than me, that there is a world out there full of mystery and beauty. It takes me away from worrying about insignificant things or things that I cannot change. When you are swimming you can only really think about swimming – it’s like a quiet underwater world where all the noise from land can’t reach you. It’s peaceful and still and even on choppy days you can feel like you soak up the positive energy from the water somehow. It is my time, my space to be me, there is no falseness, no pretence, just me, a free mind and the sea.

Overcoming anxiety, depression, and panic attacks, is a powerful journey, please describe how the sea helped bring back your confidence and how it influences your life on land.

Katie: With my breakdown/burnout I lost all confidence to do anything I had previously been doing. I felt like I couldn’t do my job, I wasn’t strong enough to exercise or see my friends, I felt scared and anxious about going out or enjoying time with my family – whilst my mind was recovering my confidence in living my life had been lost. Sea swimming every morning brought that feeling back, it made me feel proud of myself, I felt I had done something different, something extraordinary, and something most people feared doing. It made me feel brave and like I was capable again. It rebuilt my self-esteem and confidence in myself and in my own body’s physical and mental ability. For the first time since I was a child I felt like a real-life adventurer!

Have you always been a swimmer?

Katie: My father was a keen diver and loved being in the sea, as children he would take us to quiet Cornish pebble coves after a school and we would swim underwater to look at the crabs and long lines of sea kelp. As I got older I swam at school, but it slowly dwindled. I was never a front crawl swimmer I always just got in and would do breaststroke. As I got older I started pool swimming and found a love for front crawl, but I was always afraid of swimming front crawl in the sea. It wasn’t until I became unwell that I just ‘let go’ and thought how it can get any worse or any scarier than my current situation.  One beautiful morning at dawn, after yet another sleep deprived night and whilst out with my camera I met the Battery Rocks swimmers and slowly over time they gradually managed to coax me in and I have been swimming with them ever since.

Do you always swim without a wetsuit?

Katie: I have always swum without a wetsuit, I don’t feel like you have really been in if you have a wetsuit on. I like the feel of the cold rush of water and how it makes you feel so invigorated afterwards. You feel alive and reenergised after going into very cold sea water, like all has been washed away and I am brand new again.  In the winter I wear a thin neoprene body suit – it is the connection with the water that holds all of the magic.

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What do you think the future holds for you in terms of swimming?

 Katie: Swimming every morning has really changed life and my swimming ability. I used to panic a bit when I first started sea swimming and my breathing would suffer as a result but now I feel like I could swim forever! Someone once told me that once you get into a calm space and you relax then swimming should feel no harder than walking. I can completely agree with that now. My lung capacity has dramatically improved and I have so much more energy. I will sea swim until I physically can’t get in anymore. The sea has brought about so many incredible changes and opportunities in my life and I owe it so much more than just my recovery. The sea has become a part of my future now, part of my own healing but also part of my work. I would never be doing all the incredible work that I am doing now if it had not been for the Battery Rocks swimmers and the wonder of the sea.  We have so much to learn from the great outdoors, so much good can come from time spent within it, our minds are free to wander, to explore and to create. When we take real time each day for ourselves, just like the sea, anything is possible.

Favourite Swim Cake?

Katie: Something light with fruit.

Favourite piece of kit?

Katie: My favourite piece of swim kit is my wider lensed goggles from aquasphere. I like to be able to see as much as possible under the water, when we are finished swimming I often float around looking at all the starfish, crabs and if we are lucky some very friendly grey seals!

Thank you Jon and Katie: Out of the water A Lotus Rises #WSC

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The Sunday Swim Social

Want to commit to a regular, fun, training swim each week?  Want to meet other motivated swimmers, meet new swim buddies, share skills and advice? A Lotus Rises #WSC has an informal swim meet up on Sundays at 9am at the lovely heated 50m Charlton Lido and all abilities welcome!  Watch out for social media posts for when it’s happening – over the summer, like many of you, we’ll be off on adventures a lot at the weekends.

At the Swim Social here is a swim set you can follow if you wish, or you’re welcome to do your own thing. The main challenge is ensuring we finish at roughly the same time so we can all go for a post swim cuppa and breakfast…

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Speedo, Head and Finis goggles in test!

Alice, founder of A Lotus Rises is also on a mission to find the best gear for female swimmers, and is currently developing their Gear Reviews for Outdoor Swimmer Magazine,  so on occasion you may be asked to test out swim kit too …

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Trying out the Funkita pretty fly cozzie

To join our women’s swimming collective, sign up to the blog or connect with us on Instagram, Twitter and FB – Out of the water A Lotus Rises – See you soon!

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Outdoor Swimming in Argentina and Chile #alotusrises #wsc

Nadia Rang is an outdoor swimmer from Argentina. She got in touch with our Women’s Swimming Collective on Instagram. Her pictures of swimming in Argentina are epic and we wanted to find out more about her swim journey from river swims to winter swimming in the snow! Here she shares her story.

My mom took me to the pool when I was still a baby, she was afraid of water and didn’t want me to have the same fear. I never swam in order to race, I always did it because it was good for me and I found it really soothing.

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Some years ago, a professor took me to an open water race, and that was it for me. It was a 500m race in a river. The place was not the nicest but I couldn’t believe I hadn’t done it before! I loved it – Swimming outdoors is one of the best things I have done! So, I started doing it regularly. But there was a problem; it only lasted during the summer months. After that I had to go back to the pool and wait at least 7 month to swim outdoors again.

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Last year I found out about a group of crazy people that swims outdoor during the hole year and without a wetsuit! So, I went to Chile for 4 days and learned that I could do it too.

When I got there, it was snowing, and I started wonder why am I doing this?! Why am I here?? It was too difficult and too crazy… But the instructors talked us through how it  would feel (like knives carving our skin when we entered the water!), and how we needed to control our breathing to be able to swim. After all that talk, they took us to the lake… ‘OMG I don’t want to take my clothes off, it’s snowing for god sake!’ But everyone was doing it, so I did it too.

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Some people started swimming fast, in the first dip. I put my feet into the water, and started wondering again, what am I doing here?! One guy, that was as afraid as I was, turned to me and said ‘Let’s not think about the cold, just watch where we are swimming, look at the mountains and the beauty of this place’, so, we started swimming…

 

That day I learned not only about how to swim in cold waters, but also that swimming is a group experience, something to share with friends and a way of making new and great friends. It was an incredible experience! The first time is really hard, but if you learn to relax, the feeling is unique. The water was at 6 degrees and outside it was snowing.

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On that first winter swimming adventure,  I met a group of friends and we started planning a lot of activities to do together. In August 2017, we went to México and swam our first OceanMan! 10km in the beautiful sea of Cozumel, such a nice experience. Now in November we are going to cross the Rio de la Plata river, the widest river in the world, 42km. In 2018 we are hoping to cross the Gibraltar Strait. I’m always looking for new experiences and places to go swimming and I don’t mind if it’s summer or winter –  I just go! So now I’m one of those crazy crazy people that swims everywhere during the whole year without a wetsuit! I think anyone can do it – Do you dare to try it too??

Out of the water a Lotus Rises – Thank you Nadia!

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Carleen Anderson #alotusrises

We are  honoured to have Outdoor Swimmer/Musician/Composer/Recording Artist/Lyricist and Vocalist Carleen Anderson, sharing her swimming journey with the  A Lotus Rises swimming collective.  Although Carleen’s open water addiction only fully took hold in her ’50s, Carleen’s relationship with water has been a significant thread  from childhood to today, and is a journey of overcoming prejudice and segregation, personal endeavour, overcoming a fear of deep water, motherhood, team work, determination and creativity.

Most recently, Carleen completed the half mile event at Swim Serpentine, raising money for Macmillan Cancer Research in memory of family members lost to cancer. We spoke to Carleen to find out more about her open water journey.

But first, it’s worth taking a moment to reflect on Carleen’s musical career – It’s a mind blowing portfolio of creativity and collaboration (her work with the Brand New Heavies and Incognito provided much of the sound track to our teenage years! #starstruck).

“Carleen studied at the University of Southern California to be a Music Education Teacher. Those music schoolteacher goals however were thwarted by Ronald Reagan’s administration’s decision to remove the teaching of arts from the government education curriculum. Raised by her Grandparents to carry on regardless, Carleen took on work as a bank clerk whilst single parenting her son. Via a music family association, (she’s the Goddaughter of the famous singer/performer, James Brown), she was recruited by prominent UK music producers to sing and write songs for the music group, the Young Disciples, an occurrence that led to Carleen and her son relocating to the UK in 1990.

Along with being nominated for a Brit Award for her first solo album in 1994, True Spirit, Carleen has been afforded many celebrated music associations. Paul Weller co-produced her second solo album, Blessed Burden. A short list of her various collaborations include touring with the Brand New Heavies plus Incognito as well as being a featured soloist for Blues Rocker Dr. John. She performed with UK’s Jazz Legend Sir John Dankworth at the internationally renowned Stables in Milton Keynes, a music venue he and his wife Dame Cleo Laine opened in 1970 that has hosted numerous worldwide musical luminaries since its existence. Carleen also sang alongside Sir Paul McCartney in support of the War Child UK charity and appeared as a special guest soloist for The Queen of England at an exclusive Theatre Royal Brighton event celebrating music education. In 2013 she sang the lead role at the Royal Opera House as part of the ensemble for Composer/Pianist Julian Joseph’s original music with libretto by Mike Phillips inspired from the Arthurian Legend of Tristan and Isolde which some may know of the title from Richard Wagner’s rendition. In that same year Carleen won the Jazz FM Best UK Vocalist award.

She is also the recipient of Gilles Peterson’s World-Wide FM 2017 Lifetime Achievement Award. The Arts Council England plus the Performing Rights Society Fund (PRSF) Women Make Music (WMM) each granted Carleen funds to develop her current trinity project, Cage Street Memorial which consists of a book, a theatre production and a soundtrack album.”

 

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Finishing her first sea swim at Walpole Bay 2017

Why did you start open water swimming?

I was first introduced to open water when I was three years old, accompanied by my paternal Vicar Grandfather and his congregation, during a night swim on Galveston Beach in the Gulf of Mexico sea basin of the Atlantic Ocean in Texas, USA. The year was 1960 when Black Americans were still refused access to public beaches in the daytime. To avoid the violent reactions from those who were against ‘coloured’ people integrating into social activities, my Grandfather arranged with the local authorities for his flock to experience this refreshing adventure after dark, once those who would object had vacated the location.

It was during this occasion that my teenaged Auntie taught me to float faced upwards to the night sky and I could feel the flowing waves of the sea sustaining me. This is when I first learned how to be water safe.

As time moved on and access to swimming pools and beaches based on skin colour became less prohibitive by law, my brothers (who were natural swimmers) would challenge me to aim for more than just knee high water paddling, but failed to convince me beyond the occasional dash in the deep end swimming across to the side wall.

so that embryonic sensation I felt when I first floated in the ocean at age three laid dormant for nearly five decades…

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Walpole Bay 2017 Credit Carleen Anderson

My earliest attempt at learning to swim properly was during a swimming course at the college campus, where I was studying music. I swam the length of the 50 yard pool without coming up for air and the coach couldn’t believe what he’d witnessed.

Unfortunately my follow up lap revealed that it was my fear of  deep water and inability to manage my breathing technique, that lead to me holding my breath underwater for the entire distance. I was discouraged and unable to overcome my fear of swimming in the deep water, so I dropped out of the swimming course.

It wasn’t until my 50s that I took up swimming lessons again…

What got you back in the water?

In my 40s I took up horse riding, in part to distract myself from the empty nest syndrome I faced when my son went on a gap year in Australia. For over a decade horse riding was the prominent activity in my life, but an incident while out on a ride resulted in the twisting of my pelvis. I was instructed by my doctor to stop horse riding completely and to instead swim to repair the damage. Swimming had been  more about splashing in the shallows on holiday than an exciting escapade, so learning to swim properly so that her injury could heal, was a daunting task.

In 2008 I was hired to sing on a private Mediterranean cruise for a 10 day intimate family event, and the family encouraged me, once again, to try swimming in the sea. It reminded me of my first saltwater experience when I was three years old, and when I got home, I decided to have swimming lessons in the local pool; My goal was to be able to swim with the ease and fun in open water just like that family had demonstrated.

 

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Mediterranean 2008

But Swimming lessons proved challenging. I found it difficult to find a coach who would take my aims seriously. I could barely swim ten meters before exhaustion set in. What had propelled me through the waters in that one off 50 yard dash at the college campus swimming pool of my youth, had since deserted me.

And although front crawl is the stroke that feels most natural to me, the demands of the breathing technique resulted in my coaches choosing to train me in breast stroke, but then I found the coordination of the arms and legs even more complicated than the front crawl breathing!

But I soldiered on, even though the  swimming pool lessons were expensive and it felt like my technique wasn’t progressing. I figured continuing was better than giving up…

A well timed dose of fortitude came, when she saw beginner swimmers on TV challenging themselves for charity in the British Gas Swim Series. This gave her the incentive to take the plunge in memory of her loved ones lost to cancer. Her fundraising campaigns in the 2012 British Gas Swim Series at Lake Windermere plus the 2013 and 2014 Human Race events in the Thames River at Little Marlow in Buckinghamshire resulted in her raising £3,000.00 for Cancer Research UK. At Swim Serpentine 2017 she raised nearly £1600.00 for MacMillan Cancer Care.

Her swimming pool training began to improve once she started lessons in open water. Although daunted by the vastness of Mytchett Lake in Camberley Quays, Carleen found a very supportive trainer in Martin Allen who at the time was the manager of the centre. Their goal was to prepare her to swim one mile at Lake Windermere. But with barely six weeks training, most of which was spent with Carleen desperately holding onto a kayak, she was unable to reach her one mile goal in the British Gas Swim Series event in 2012.

The safety steward saw that I’d hesitated to enter the 14 degree water, and kindly encouraged me as I navigated 20 meters at a time. He watched out for me as hoards of faster swimmers zoomed through the waters around me. After I’d been in the water for a long time, we decided it would be better to aim towards the 1/2 mile mark. Even though I had to hold onto the kayak for most of that swim, the crowd cheered me on and I swam the last 20 meters by myself as the safety steward in the kayak looked on from a safe distance. I completed the swim in 1 hour and 7 minutes.

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Swim Serpentine 2017

In 2013 Carleen decided to register for the 1/2 mile wave in the Human Race as she now knew that this was a distance she could complete, albeit very slowly. However these waters would be in the River Thames at Little Marlow Bridge, Buckinghamshire.

Visually it seemed a conceivable task, as the width of the Thames looks much smaller than the gigantic Lake Windermere. But my Coach Martin had cautioned me about the currents. I was still at the stage of barely achieving 50 meters continuously before stopping to hold on to a kayak, take a break, and then continuing.

I delayed getting in by sitting on the ledge fumbling with my goggles, but finally entered the water. I felt as though I’d entered a whirlpool. The safety stewards in their kayaks circled me as I reached the 200 meter mark near the iconic Little Marlow Bridge structure, and told me that I was not to go any further.

Too proud to take a lift back to shore in the kayak I swam sideways to the riverbank where friends who had come to cheer me on pulled me up over the embankment and consoled me as I cried for being unable to complete the course.

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Getting ready to get in the Thames 2013

Undeterred, Carleen continued with her training with plans to go back to Little Marlow in 2014 to complete the 1/2 mile course. She gained fresh motivation after seeing the live TV coverage of endurance swimmer Diana Nyad swim from Cuba to Florida in 53 hours at the age of 64.

It was Coach Martin’s empathy for Carleen’s despair over the incomplete Thames swim in 2013 that led him to  recruit Nina Cron, an accomplished swimmer, to coach Carleen in preparation for the return Thames River attempt in 2014. And together, Carleen and Nina completed the swim.

There were a few wobbles during that swim, but Coach Nina was there to lift me up as I made my way  through the strong currents. We made it to the finish line in 1 hour and 6 minutes. The crowds who’d gathered that morning gave me a warm cheer as I exited the water. It was great to feel them acknowledge my determination and take that journey to its completion.

Between 2014 and 2016 there were career demands that prevented Carleen from the necessary training it takes to participate in a mass swim event. Also during that period another close family member died of cancer which further drained Carleen of her energy. But Coach Nina, a health nurse by profession, continued giving her moral support and by the end of the 2016 swim season, Carleen ventured into the open waters of the Thorpe Park swimming lake. The temperature was so cold she could only swim about 100 meters, but she was back in the waters, which Coach Nina reminded her was the most important thing to take away from that experience.

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Camberley Lake 60th Birthday Wade in Water and Zoot Wetsuit trial

I began putting in the swimming pool training hours from then on in preparation for the Swim Serpentine 2017 event. I worked on building up my stamina, strength and technique with my favourite swimming aids. The pull buoy helped streamline my position in the water and short fins helped me concentrate on my ankle flick. Using a kick board improved my propulsion and hand paddles angled my fingertip for water entry and made me pull through the water with greater efficiency.

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Little Marlow Swim 2014

How was event day? What did completing Swim Serpentine mean to you?

With Coach Nina on one side and our friend Liz on the other, both shouting directions but each far enough away so that I could swim unassisted, I completed the 2017 Swim Serpentine 1/2 mile course in 1 hour and 5 minutes.

It’s a slow pace but feel it is a real breakthrough. I didn’t have to hold onto a kayak and did the entire swim under my own steam.

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Friend Liz, Carleen and Swim Coach Nina at the Swim Serpentine finish!

And a few days later my Coach Nina took me back to Mytchett Lake and I swam without a coach or kayak nearby!

Nina had put forward this last minute challenge in order for me to prepare for filming my music video the following week at Walpole Bay, where I would be swimming on my own.

The tidal pool measures up to 137 meters in distance and up to 8 feet in depth and there are no lifeguards or water stewards in kayaks available for emergency rescue.

I swam smoother and faster on that Mytchett Lake training loop than I’d ever done in the five years since I’d first started swimming in open water. I amazed myself and my coaches and fellow swimmers who’d seen my development over the years were incredibly proud.

When the time came me to swim in the salty waters of the Walpole Bay Tidal Pool I felt just as I had when my Auntie had taught me to float off the coast of Galveston Beach at night time when I was only three. And the buoyancy evoked such realms of possibility. I could feel a compulsion to be more more adventurous in life surface, despite the chronic aches and pains from bodily wear and tear that my 60 years around the sun brought.

How has swimming affected your life out of the water? Has it influenced your work?

After five years of training I can still only swim 1/2 mile very slowly in open water whilst  I know other people can swim much longer distances in considerably less time. I could feel deflated, but Coach Nina reminds me to think about how far I’ve come.

When I started open water swimming it would take me several months to recover from a 1/2 mile swim. But days after Swim Serpentine 2017 I was filmed  swimming for the first time in saltwater at Walpole Bay for my music video and I had plenty of energy left over to carry on swimming after filming was complete. And I am  motivated about the thought of my next swim. As Coach Nina says, “Swimming will always be a challenge but you will get stronger every time you swim.” This is a motto that Carleen has taken on to live by in general.

To say I’m addicted to open water swimming would be a HUGE understatement. Swimming gives me an opportunity to escape the music industry bubble and enjoy the natural tempo from the sounds of open water; swimming outdoors is a great uplift from life’s pressures. Although I’m less enthusiastic to swim in chlorinated pools as she feels it’s essentially sharing a big bathtub with the neighbourhood, still, in order to maintain the propulsion gained from summer open water swimming she swims in the local pools during the winter months.

What’s your favourite piece of swim kit and why?

I keep my swim kit by the door. For the pool I have a knee length one piece suit, prescription goggles, silicone ear plugs, swim hat and toiletries. When I know I’m going to be doing swimming drills, I switch to a larger bag to hold all my training equipment, (kick board, pull buoy, fins, etc.). For open water swimming I add two additional swim hats, thermal swim socks and a wetsuit. Along with my coconut water filled sports bottle I also bring a carob and nut health bar for energy replenishment after the swim. I’d love to have cake but serious food allergies prevents me from having it.

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What advice do you have for people new to outdoor swimming?

First and foremost enjoy the swim! Resist the urge to fight the water and instead let yourself feel its flow and glide along with it. I like to hum as I blow out air under water – it helps keep my swimming pace steady and even. Most of all I feel swimming is an opportunity to get rid of stress and heal. Of course staying fit is a healthy way to live life however you need to enjoy the activity in order to stick with it. Also, raising funds for charity is a strong motivator.

How did you train and prepare for the half mile at Swim Serpentine? What were the highs and lows?

I devoted an entire week in July 2017 to exclusively swim everyday in  preparation for Serpentine 2017. I booked into the Premiere Inn closest to my frequent training centres, Mytchett Lake, Thorpe Lake and Horseshoe Lake to cut out the two hour round trip journey that took so much away from what was gained in her outdoor swims. I’d swim in the mornings and evenings and sometimes Coach Nina and sometimes Coach Martin and friend Liz would join me. That week greatly improved my confidence in deep water, and helped prevent the anxiety that surfaces when I’ve had time away from open water.

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With Coach Nina before Thames River Swim 2014 Little Marlow Buckinghamshire

What are your swim plans, or water inspired projects for the future?

My next goal is to improve my swim time for the 1/2 mile distance at Serpentine 2018 and ideally swim it within an hour. I also hope to have enough courage to swim completely independently without my coach swimming in the same wave.

Until then I hope to enjoy several scheduled events with Mytchett Lake swim club that I’ve been invited to join for the next open water swim season. Prior to that, if I can summon up the bravery, I’d like to participate in the New Year’s Day Swim in 2018 at Walpole Bay in Kent.

At a recent gathering with the family who had encouraged her to swim in the Mediterranean Sea, they reminded reminded me of the tremendous strides in open water swimming I’ve made since then. 

I whole heartedly recommend swimming. And sums it up like this:

“One returns to the shore after venturing out into the wild waters ready with a fresh outlook on life”.

Out of the water A Lotus Rises – Thank you Carleen!

Carleen Anderson Just Giving Fundraising Page for Macmillan Cancer Care Charity

BEGIN AGAIN Music � Swimming Video Promo for Cage Street Memorial Album

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