Appledore North Devon UK
I have always loved swimming and anything to do with the water. Moving to Appledore, North Devon two years ago I was in my element, the beautiful Torridge estuary was on my doorstep and the crashing waves and broad sandy beach at WestwardHo! just a stones through away. My trusty hound Gypsy and I would spend hours walking, swimming and just enjoying life in this beautiful environment. All was well in our world and then along came the Covid Pandemic.
The Pandemic and its vital restrictions has brought a great deal of sadness, uncertainty, hardship and stress to many people. One of the issues which affected me was the need to exercise and keep myself busy. Ok, I had my dogs to walk, but I needed something more. As a long term sufferer of Bipolar disorder I experience manic highs and deep lows, being near the water is a great leveller for me, which is fine in the summer when you can absorb your Vitamin D from being outside in the sun. The winter however is a different kettle of fish – excuse the pun.
Many years ago, being a County swimmer I spent hours training in unheated pools, but as the years have passed I can’t say I have given much thought to dipping my toes, let alone my whole body into freezing cold water. Needs must, I had to focus on something and needed a challenge to help me through these strange times. I had read about the benefits of Cold water swimming and knew several people who were partaking in daily dips, having also joined several local social media groups. I was ready to take the plunge.
Before contemplating this extreme sport, please do your research on the do’s and don’ts. It is highly inadvisable to take to the waters on your own, you need a swim buddy to accompany you or to watch from the shore. Knowing the tide times, surf conditions and local currents is also imperative, as is only entering the water an hour before or after high tide. Also ensure you can enter & exit the water easily & safely. Whoa. there was more to this than I had first imagined, but safety is paramount and immersing yourself in cold water is an extreme thing to do in the winter, if you are not acclimatised to the water. Never stay in too long, listen to your body and beware of the After drop.
I have to say that the Cold water swimming community are lovely individuals, very supportive, helpful and caring. Questions about clothing, best places to dip and feelings are all shared in the Social media groups. I found my swim buddy who lives locally, on my FB group and together – socially distanced – we and my pooch have bounced in the waves, laughed as we shivered with delight and generally had a feeling of total well being. Don’t imaging we are in the water for hours. A dip is a dip, but the feeling of having actually accomplished the feat is overwhelming.
Cold water swimming has benefited me enormously, both mentally and physically. Spending my lock down life planning the day around the tides times, gives me a sense of excitement and mystery – how cold will the water be, what will the weather be like – makes me get out of bed in the morning. When that feeling of the “black dog sitting on my shoulder” shrouds me in misery, experiencing my own black fur ball herding me like a water sheep dog, to keep me close to the shore is amazing. Her high pitched, joyous yaps as she is told to wait while I enter the water, gives me a sense of satisfaction that her life is more pleasurable too. The feeling of “going into oneself” and inertia is quickly dispersed when walking down to the water, taking some deep breaths and saying “I can do this”. Slowly entering the cold water my mind is focused on nothing else, but the temperature. Once submerged, I turn over, float on my back and watch the sky, the feeling is one of exuberance, I skull around for a few minutes and drift back to the shore. My mind is clear, my body tingling, I feel cleansed in both body and mind, a great sense of achievement also prevails.
Is it worth it
Yes, yes and yes again. as well as extolling the virtues above: Nobody actually cares what you are wearing or what you look like – this is not a glamorous sport – There are no body image issues here – Fat, thin, disabled, disfigured, colour, creed or orientation is not a concern. The only thought is for the amazing feeling of euphoria you will experience. After all, when you are feeling happy, and contented, you don’t have to spend your time concerning yourself about the minutiae of everyday life.
I started cold water swimming in October 2020, progressing from a once a week, dip in the sea wearing a swimsuit, to every day in the beautiful Torridge estuary – tides permitting – I have just purchased a shorty neoprene wet suit in order to stay in the water a bit longer, attempting some proper swimming. I have found some mind blowing activity that I enjoy, is a challenge I can build upon and makes me feel calm, relaxed and happy. I also find a You tube 20 min yoga class when I get home, helps me warm up and keep supple, for a sixty six year old that cant be bad. Stay safe all.