Here comes the sun!
A swim to help Lou Walker remember why all this freezing cold-water swimming is so worth it…
I’ve been swimming in the sea regularly for six months and now, with the glimmer of longer, warmer days on the horizon – and warmer water – I’ve started to feel more positive about my sea swimming.
It’ll be fabulous going down to the sea armed with not much more than goggles and a towel instead of all the paraphernalia I lug down at the moment – mainly clothes to put on after a swim.
Don’t get me wrong – I’ve loved it, mostly – but the last month or so has been hard. Dwindling swim fitness, Christmas excesses, an energy-sapping lurgy, big seas and a couple of confidence-crumbling knock downs had started to make my sea swims feel like a bit of a chore. Setting off in the dark on a Sunday morning for a two hour round trip to get cold and frightened for 15mins has taken willpower – although nine times out of ten I still got the endorphin high afterwards to make it worth it.
Yesterday, though, the sun came out – literally and metaphorically. Perhaps the benefits of marathon training and a new pool regime of two sessions a week have started to kick in, and the lurgy had sodded off. Sadly the forecast snow didn’t arrive (how cool would those beach photos have been?) but it was another bitingly chilly day with the air temp at 2°C.
Before swimming, my Channel relay team had a photocall on the beach for our first publicity shots. So rather than keeping furry boots, hats and coats on until the last minute, we got nicely chilled prancing about on the beach in swimsuits and hoodies. I couldn’t feel my toes when we’d finished.
But then the swim was sublime. It was calm when about 15 of us waded in and by the time we’d been in for six or seven minutes the sun had come out. That made all the difference. Someone started singing The Beatles’ Here Comes the Sun while we bobbed about a bit and everyone joined in. I can’t tell you how brilliant it is when the sun comes out. It makes it all seem less forbidding and stressful and more… normal.
Swimming back, I felt great. I had some energy and felt balanced and relaxed – which of course in itself makes swimming easier. I swam and swam and revelled in the joy of my body working well at last to slice me through the water. It’s a feeling I’ve never had in a pool or lake, or when wearing a wetsuit. I felt very connected with the sea and the elements and my fellow swimmers. Do I sound bonkers? Probably, but other non-wetsuit swimmers will know what I mean. In the future, whenever I’m wondering what the bloody hell I’m doing all this for, I’ll make myself remember these glorious moments and it’ll get me back in that cold water like a shot.
After 20mins when my arms started to feel sluggish – due to the cold rather than tiredness – it was time for me to think about getting out but even then I stayed in a bit longer. When the sun’s out I find it harder to listen to my body’s cold signals because, although all the signals from my body and skin shriek ‘freezing winter’, all my visual signals say ‘boiling summer’ and I love being in the sea in the summer. So we splashed about a bit more as if it was August – and it was wonderful. We were in for 25mins.
Cold water-induced endorphins are very potent and can leave you in a brilliant mood all day; better than any booze or drugs and entirely natural (well… maybe that’s up for debate!). But it makes you feel good to be alive. You’re in the sea in January for goodness’ sake! Without a wetsuit. And laughing! In the words of David Guetta: “I am ti…taaaaa….niiiiuuuum…”.