Open Water Swimming – Why the Craze?
Swimming, for the pure joy of movement…
You have possibly heard the hype of the spreading movement towards Open Water Swimming across the UK and the globe and asked yourself ‘What’s this all about then?’.
What was once regarded as a crazy dip by ‘old’ people who had lost their cold sensory ability, has now firmly cemented itself in the mainstream. Whereby enthusiastic bathers and wetness adventure seekers are reclaiming any and every puddle, pond, pool and piece of still, tidal, gentle or torrent water, high and low, urban or wild, across our beautiful planet. And now there is evidence of the presence of water on Mars… Upon this breaking news, who else amongst the OSS (Outdoor Swimming Society) and swimming community at large had the thought “I’d swim that!”, just me?
I guess the next big question you may ask is ‘why?’.
For me, this question is answered threefold:
- Skill Improvement – I once read that ‘Swimming is the only sport where the primary purpose is survival’. For myself and I’m sure all those passionate about propelling oneself through the water with some semblance of skill and grace, it certainly starts with this, but has become so much more. Like most of us, I learnt to swim as a child with lessons in the local pool. Survival skills, basic stroke instruction and taught to tread water, for when I found myself beyond my depth. Then once competent on being able save myself with a head above water front crawl (freestyle), I did not progress any further. Therefore I was a ‘dud’ at school swimming carnival and the like, but always harboured an ambition to one day learn to swim with some skill, like those professionals that make it look so effortless. Therefore, approximately six years ago, I booked myself some professional swim coaching lessons that focus on stroke, form, technique and body position, glide and movement in the water and under this tutorage I progressed quickly from a frantic washing machine waste of energy to a more smooth and satisfying fluid dynamic. My style is by no means the effortless propulsion that once seemed so very elusive, but the journey continues and there is certainly celebration in the gains and technique improvements.
- Whole Body Exercise – My fitness and exercise regimes have shifted over the last thirty years. From football, long distance running and heavy weight training, that then evolved to body weight training, conditioning and yoga and is now all centred primarily around swimming. I still keep the yoga and a little strength conditioning for stroke power, however I have left the other behind me like my football boots gathering dust in a box somewhere. Swimming exercise for me is the greatest full body workout that I could possibly perform. By hitting the water with an intention for each swim, be it technique focus and improvement, distance training or speed and pace work, I always have the same end result of an extremely satisfying workout. The benefits gained for me from this form of exercise is: whole body muscular workout in one session, high cardiovascular training without hyper-elevated heart rate, low (almost negligible) impact training, almost zero post workout fatigue and an inter-connective tissue release that combines a full body stretch with exercise. No wonder I feel so euphoric and flexible when I combine swim training with yoga.
- Leaving the world behind – Being a busy entrepreneur, I often find it difficult to be away from every and all facets of my company. Not that I begrudge what I do in the slightest. I love creating and building a brand that is reshaping the massage, manual therapy and healthy lifestyle industry. However, between the latest technology and the Internet, it is almost impossible not to be contactable 24/7/365. This is where swimming as exercise for me is the only place that I can truly disconnect from the world. All I ever (intentionally) enter the water with is that which I am wearing to swim in (swimmers or wetsuit in colder climates), goggles and cap. I do have a swim watch for lap counting and timing and I do appreciate the more advanced models as training aids, but I absolutely love the fact that no other interruptions from the outside world can reach me when I am in the water. This is ‘ME’ time. Just myself, my breathing, my rhythm and the water, everything else just literally ‘washes’ away. Any thoughts, tasks or issues are quickly put aside after a couple of hundred metres and my head space becomes clear. No other form of exercise, including yoga, takes me to this mental clarity as quick as that which swimming does. It is an absolutely essential part of my working week routine and has done wonders for my productivity.
For the video of my ‘Why’… Check here:
I am sure that there are a myriad of other reasons out there why my fellow wetness seekers take the plunge and there are so many forms of swimming and ways people enjoy the freedom of this sport. From ‘naturest’ bathing to body surfing and everything in between you could find individuals or groups that share the same enthusiasm for getting in the water, that you may have.
Where can you find out more?
Searching the internet is an obvious place to find a local group, swimming club and advice on recommended and safe places to swim. My recommendations for connecting with swimmers of all skill levels and interests is through one of the following:
- The Outdoor Swimming Society – This free to join UK group is an amazing network of swimming enthusiasts of all skill levels and interests from all walks of life. They have some of the safest, enjoyable and most well run events every year (especially in the summer season) and their social media pages such as that on Facebook, are extremely informative, supportive and encouraging for everyone of all levels. Visit their website here.
- Facebook Local Swimming Groups or Clubs – For finding a Club or Group in your area to go swimming with, Facebook is certainly one of the best places to find these smaller organisations that may not have a web page. Just locality search swim clubs at the top of your feed and you should find several options close to you.
- Meet Up Groups – If you are looking to search out a swimming group that is possibly more tailored towards a certain variety or style of swimming that you have an interest in, then the Meet Up website is a great resource to find groups in your area that specialise towards interests other than just clubs or swim teams. Be Your interests geared towards cold water bathing, wilderness swimming or ‘Naturest’ dipping, there would likely be a Meet Up in your area that has several members who share your enthusiasm. If no Meet Up is available to you within your area, then you may want to consider creating your own Meet Up and attracting those ‘like minded’ yourself.
- Local Pool or Lido – You can also drop by your local lido or pool and they would be more than happy to share information with you on their social clubs and organised events.
- Swim Coaching & Instruction – I initially booked my swim coaching & instruction with Jon Tyler Swim Training and cannot recommend him enough for improving your swimming skill set.
So what are you waiting for?
Come join the wetness revolution and start or reconnect with your inner fish today. Like those already in the know, you will certainly wonder how you ever experienced any enjoyment before you took up swimming again.
For remember “Without water, there is no life!”
Have a favourite swimming experience? Or why you love to swim? Tell us about it…