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Open water swimming – what it’s really like

Knowing the location of my first ever open water swim was going to be the highest beach in England and in late April,  I had a bit of an inkling it wasn’t going to be warm.
This been said, I was still excited when we trekked from the car park to Gaddings Dam in Lancashire with a handful of others, clutching our newly bought wetsuits and shivering just a bit.
We were taking part in an introduction to open water swimming run by English channel swimmer and experienced coach Christine Bradley.
The first lesson before I’d even put my toe in the water was buy a well fitting wetsuit. Christine recognised immediatley the one I’d bought was too big  and kindly lent me her own.
Once kitted out and with a safety briefing from Christine, along with some tips on what we needed to do, it was time to literally take the plunge
With Christine’s sound advice in my head, which was stay calm and breath, we inched our way into what felt like ice water. There was no way of doing it other than to just getting in and getting on with it; the slower I did it the worse it was.
The water was 13 degrees which is significantly colder than the usual 29 degrees at my local pool.
The first five minutes were a bit hair-raising. I consider myself a fairly strong swimmer but getting used to the current and the cold was something completely new.
However, it wasn’t long before I had found my confidence and soon realised why open water swimming is such an addictive pastime for so many.
There is an amazing feeling of freedom that you do not get swimming in a pool and, without getting too deep and meaningful, you really do feel at one with nature.
I immediately realised swimming front crawl is much better option. On a windy spring day the reservoir was kicking up some decent waves and it was far better to be head down swimming through the water than trying to cope with water splashing on your face.
After just over half an hour of swimming and absolutely loving it Christine suggested we get out as it is difficult to judge the impact the cold was having on our bodies.
As soon as I was out I realised how cold I was,  so much so it was difficult to get my wetsuit off.  Cue husband with a welcome flask of tea and some biscuits.
The whole experience was absolutely brilliant and it wasn’t long before I was back to it a few months later; this time in a considerably warmer Loch Lomond, then later in the summer in Greece, which was basically like a warm bath in comparison.
If you love swimming getting into the open water really takes it to another level and I’m a complete convert now.
I would definitely seek out an experienced open water swimming coach as it really is a world away from pool swimming.
There are some real dangers associated with open water swimming to make sure you have an expert with you.
Also take a flask of coffee and some snacks and a hat to help with the cold and hunger once you are out as it took a while for me to get warm again.
There is stacks of information on open water swimming online – you can’t go far wrong with The Outdoor Swimming Society
Christine Bradley can be found at on Facebook here 

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