I was first introduced to the concept of wild swimming 8 years ago when I met a journalist on a press trip who thought nothing of plunging into the North Sea in the dark of night in mid April whilst staying at Ackergill Tower. When it comes to the outdoors, I am open to trying anything and this was how I came to be warming up by the fire on the beach, at 11pm after the short, sharp shock of the freezing sea. Along with the warmth though came a feeling I have come to love. It is the feeling as your body warms up after being in very cold water. Endorphins have kicked in and, essentially, it's an incredible natural high. I have never actually experienced anything other than natural high I hasten to say, but as far as highs go, this one is addictive.
I have dabbled ever since with swimming in the open, never serious and never competitive. In fact I would question it's swimming - it is often more of dipping, lounging, kicking backwards watching the skies, floating and stretching. Sometimes it is swimming properly if I feel like it. The point is not how far, how many miles or how fast. The point is the sheer joy of being totally immersed in nature. It is as close to being at one with nature that you can get. It's almost shocking sometimes, strange and so far removed from normal life. When I'm in the water all I'm thinking about is a complete focus on being in the moment, there’s little time for anything else. Then, when I relax into it a little, a kind of clarity of thought, a feeling of absolute awe of being in a beautiful world, surrounded so close by the water all around. It relaxes and invigorates at the same time. Anything that makes you feel like a child, carefree and totally absorbed is a very healthy thing.
In addition to this, I soon began to realise that cold water eases pain. And when you look at the history of cold water therapy, it has been proven to have numerous benefits. Speeding up metabolism, reducing inflammation, easing sore muscles, improved sleep, better immune system. It is also why athletes use ice baths to speed recovery.
For me, when I have the sort of neck and shoulder tension that just makes me feel irritable and there's not anything else I can do to help it, a short sharp dip in cold water is guaranteed to make me feel better.
This is my first year of swimming consistently outdoors. Having given up my indoor pool membership it seems illogical not to use it to keep fit as well. I have found a spot close to home and am figuring out ways of incorporating it into my every day routine when I'm home now.
If you’ve never tried swimming outdoors, I'd recommend trying it once to just experience the high!