ACTIVE | Pushing Myself With A Winter Open Water Swim


🕒 4 minute read

Inspired by the winter wild swimmers I’ve been following and talking to on Instagram, I did something that at the start of this year, I’d never have dreamt I’d be doing and booked myself onto a ‘polar’ open water swim.

Boundary Water Park in Cheshire
5.1° at Boundary Water Park in Cheshire

The swim was due to take place at Boundary Water Park near where I live in Cheshire on Sunday 6th December. Swimming outdoors in December both intrigued me and seemed like utter madness at the same time. Shortly after booking, with the water temperature dropping day by day, I started to wonder if I hadn’t gone slightly mad.

If you’d have told me 6 months ago I’d be swimming outside in December I simply wouldn’t have believed it.

The day before my swim I received an email warning me that the water was considered “very cold” at 6.5° and I’ll be honest, I was super worried It would be too cold for me. The coldest water I’d swum in at that point was 10° before the second lockdown and I found that tough.

Despite my anxiety ramping up in the hours before my swim, I was determined not to back out, so I told myself I’d give it a try. If I only went in up to my waist and had to come straight back out again, at least I’d given it a good go and I’d know my personal limits.

Boundary water park in Winter
The cold and dark day certainly didn’t make getting in any easier!

I genuinely had no idea whether I’d be able to do it and suspected I’d be straight in and out!

My Fiancé came with me to offer moral support and to help me get out of my wetsuit quickly after my swim and the Uswim team were also on hand with friendly words of encouragement.

As I prepared to enter the water a group of ladies started chatting and we ended up entering the water together – hearing they’d never swum in water so cold either and cheering each other on really did help. That’s one of the things I’ve come to love about Uswim. Everyone is so chatty and friendly and we encourage each other which really does give you a confidence boost.

Just out of the water and beaming!

After my previous swim a few weeks ago, I’d invested in gloves (turns out they were too big, as suspected, but better than nothing!) and my wetsuit boots and 4/3 wetsuit (albeit a surf rather than open water specific suit) did a decent job of insulating me. I spent a good length of time bobbing in and out of the water when I first got in, getting used to the temperature before we set off to do the short course.

My fingers fared worst and remained very, very cold throughout, painfully so for the first 10 minutes, but the rest of me didn’t feel too bad which surprised me hugely. I still have no clue how people can go in without a wetsuit though, I feel like they must be superhuman!

For me personally, my swim today felt like a huge personal achievement having overcome both phsicial and mental limitations to do it.

After doing the short course, we decided we’d have a crack at the full course and it was so lovely to be swimming with company, as I usually don’t have anyone to swim with and I’m not sure I’d have had the courage to have a crack at it on my own.

The smile says it all!
The smile says it all!

We certainly didn’t break any speed records, but I think it’s fair to say for all of us, upon finishing the bigger course, we surprised ourselves and it felt like a massive accomplishment.

I know that loads of people do cold, and indeed, colder swims and it’s really not that special, but for me personally, my swim today felt like a huge personal achievement having overcome both physical and mental barriers to do it.

The positive effects of cold water swimming are well documented and I love the endorphin high it gives me. The heightened sense of wellbeing can stay with me for a good 24 hours too and I think you can see the elation in my post-swim face.

Black open water cold swimmer
All dry and warmed up after my swim

I’m not going to say there wasn’t physical discomfort and that it wasn’t tough, but I absolutely loved it!

Once again, huge thanks to Dave and all the team at Uswim for their guidance and encouragement. If you’d have told me 6 months ago I’d be swimming outside in December I simply wouldn’t have believed it.

I feel like I’ve benefited so much from pushing myself this year, like I’ve achieved some amazing things that I’m proud of, despite the year being so tough and limiting in so many other ways.

Inspired to swim?

Find out more about Uswim open water and read about my first experience of open water swimming here.

Take a look at what the Black Swimming Association are doing or have a look at Metal Health Swims, a community of wild swimmers who do group swims all over the UK in all seasons.

Where to next?

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Shell loves all things travel and outdoors and is a nature-loving, comfy-camping kinda girl. Shell started the Camping with Style blog after a serious snowboarding accident which left her with a broken back. Despite this she used the outdoors and healing power of nature to aid her recovery and she continues to spend time outdoors whenever she can.

From open water swimming, snowboarding and kayaking to hill walks and meditation, Shell shares her travels and microadventures here on the blog and in various publications she’s written for, Shell has a particular interest in promoting wellbeing and the many benefits of nature therapy.

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