Go on - take the plunge!

POSTED ON: 19/05/2017

“What do you do that for?” and “Are you mad?” are often the responses when I tell people what I have been up to at the weekend.

“Because it makes you feel on top of the world” and “Most definitely” would be my responses. It just so happens that Open Water Swimming is the single best thing to happen to me since 1- meeting my husband and 2- having my son. As well as this job, obviously…

So what exactly is it about open water swimming that is so addictive and why are people taking to the water in droves? As a complete open water addict all I can do is give you the reasons why I do it and hope that you come join me, and soon. I promise, you’ll love it.

1. Open horizons...
There is something wonderful about not being constrained by the end of the pool. With pool swimming you start to get into your stride and then –oh – you have to turn. In open water, looking back from where you came is a great, great feeling – the landmarks reducing in size in the distance.

2. Making Friends...
What more can I say? You meet some truly wonderful people. We belly laugh all the time. Let’s face it, you soon lose your airs and graces when covered from head to toe in neoprene. My best friend has even stopped wearing make up when she swims (she is always immaculate) and no one notices, or cares! And what is the one thing that open water swimmers are guaranteed to enjoy more than swimming? Coffee, cake and a chat.

There really is a sense of camaraderie in this sport that I have not seen in any other. Sure, there are some competitive souls amongst us but they are always supportive and watchful over those who just want to enjoy the swell of the sea (and the attractive sand-beard which may be one of the only cons of the sport…)

3. An escape to nature...
It is hard to describe but it is truly exhilarating to be at one with nature. As soon as you start swimming in the sea or a lake such as Alton Water, you start to relax and enjoy all the nature around you and the feeling of swimming in open water is second to none.

4. A physical and mental challenge...
The cold water and the constantly varying conditions when open water swimming do present a physical and mental challenge. There are many times before getting in when you try and talk yourself out of it, a short time once you are in when you chastise yourself being an idiot for even attempting this stupid sport and then suddenly, once you have acclimatised, you are on top of the world and don’t understand what all the fuss was about when you were jumping up and down in the shallows, squealing about a little coldness between your toes.
Some swim with wetsuits and some without. It’s about enjoying yourself so it doesn’t matter which you go for, it has to be about what is best for you.
Anything under 16 degrees in the water and I am wetsuit all the way but there are some hardy characters that brave it out 365 in a costume alone. The Great East Swim has rules in place that mean you have to always wear a wet suit in their competition – it does help with buoyancy. You can hire one to wear or buy your own. It really is your choice.

5. A natural high...
Apparently the cold water is the best possible way to get a natural high and I have to say I agree. The cold water makes the heart start racing and the nerves really go for it - it is properly exhilarating!

6. Boosts weight loss...

I have yet to experience this one (!) as swimming makes me ravenous, so I end up eating my own body weight in marmalade cake (always supplied by the awesome Sheila) but allegedly open water swimming helps with weight loss. When your body is exposed to cold, it requires more heat to warm you up.  You burn fat more efficiently when cold - so there we are! Loads more calories than a warm pool swim for the equivalent time in the water. It is also a low impact, full body workout. What’s not to like? 

7. Relieves physical and mental stress...
This is where it becomes even more wonderful. Cold water is used to alleviate aches and pains for professional and amateur athletes alike. This is a great way to exercise and assist those little aches and pains at the same time as working out. Lovely.

Well-being is a big and important topic in today’s stressful world and scientists suggest that it can reduce stress levels and even depression. When I am open water swimming, I am not stressing about day-to-day life and I feel it gives me an additional outlet that is hugely important to my overall happiness and well-being. For this, if nothing else, it is to be recommended.

8. A sense of pride...
Such a feeling of personal achievement attached to open water swimming. My first open water swim was the Great East Swim at Alton Water in 2015. One mile on a mill-pond calm sunny sort of a day and it was overwhelmingly brilliant. The setting was just beautiful and I was humbled by the idyllic countryside we have on our doorstep. It was a fantastic experience once I had stopped panicking. My friends took part as did my husband and son. Such a great local, family experience.  I was so proud of myself for doing it. In 2016 I completed the Alton Water 10k and felt the same sense of achievement. It gets you like that. One minute you are swimming a mile, two years later 10k. This is the beauty of Alton Water Great East Swim – you can do half a mile up to 10k.

9. It's fun!
It is so much fun. This year I am doing the Alton Water 5k with all my swimming buddies and we are training together– and we have so much fun! There is always someone to accompany you on the long sea swims or pool swims.  We all intend to swim 5k and then go into town for celebratory drinks and dinner. Hope to see you there.

The Great East Swim makes me very proud of Suffolk and to have so many people visit and see our county this way is a great opportunity for the place. Book now!

In the Great East Swim 2017, I am swimming to raise money for Inspire Suffolk. 

Open water swimming opportunities include:


By Fiona Wright, Marketing Director, Ipswich Central

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