What Wild Swimming taught me

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Sitting on a train heading down to London, a normal person would be filled with excitement for the weekend ahead. Excited to seek adventure and try new things. Not this gal though. On the way to London I was filled with fear and anxiety, and not just thinking about what would be attacking my feet in the sea.

For as long as I can remember I have been bigger, and that never really leaves you as a person. You think that when you lose weight you will instantly be more confident and be happier, but it is not as simple as that. Going from a size 26 at nearly 19 stone to now a size 12 hasn’t really changed my mindset. So on my way to London last weekend, the realisation that I would have to be donning a swimsuit and having my body on show was terrifying. I told myself this year that I would say yes to more things, be bold and brave, so of course when I get invited to go Wild Swimming in North Wales, I say yes! For the most part I do that, its only at the last minute that the realisation of what I am actually doing hits me that I panic.

So I spent Saturday exploring North Wales, trying to put the fear at the back of my mind. I spent an amazing day with an incredible woman and you can read all about that here. Sunday soon came around though and after Yoga on the beach, it was finally time to be brave and bold. It’s strange how we look at everyone around us and see perfection, yet see all the flaws in ourselves.

My Sunday was spent with some amazing Journalists and Bloggers, and an incredible woman Gabby who set up Gone Swimming. I found myself comparing my flaws to everyones ‘perfections’ and felt myself becoming more and more terrified of the fact we would all be getting into our swimsuits and going swimming together, where my body was on show for them to judge and view.

In reality they were probably all shitting themselves at the fact we were about to run into the freezing sea in North Wales on an early Sunday morning, but isn’t it strange how our perspectives vary? In my head they were more concerned about my jiggly thighs and wobbly bum but in theirs it was probably how they might touch a jellyfish or get attacked by a seaweed monster.

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Gone Swimming is run by Gabby, who learned to swim in the waters off Anglesey before she could walk. Over the years, she developed a strong passion for the water, through countless hours of swimming, diving and sailing all around the UK and overseas. When you meet Gabby, she is like an incredible beacon of light. I instantly felt more at ease just in her presence, and I loved how open she was with her story and life. Opening up to the group about her mental health struggles, I found it extremely easy to relate to Gabby. She was so warming, but extremely passionate and I found it incredibly refreshing. She couldn’t wait to show us how incredible wild swimming was, but still remained professional and safety was always the number one priority.

Wild swimming is about getting back to basics, enjoying what nature has to offer and exploring the area from a different view point. You really get to experience nature and the beauty of the water (whilst getting some funny looks running into the lake). It is a completely different experience to anything I had ever done and I want to thank Gabby & Kay for making it as incredible as it was, and also for the amazing cakes supplied by Gabby herself!

So what did Wild swimming teach me?

1) You will probably scream that you have a numb vagina a la me. Trust me, nothing is worse than realising your lady garden is frozen, and it seems no amount of swimming warms that back up until you get a warm cuppa down you when you are back on dry land.

2) Swimming is about feeling alive, yet is a great way to meditate. Have you ever swam around in the cold ocean, just the sound of the sea to keep you in the moment. You really focus on the present, and really leave with a sense of calm. I lost all my worries and thoughts of how big my bum looked, I just got to enjoy the moment being at one with nature.

3) You feel fucking amazing. Swimming around in the oceans and lakes of North wales was incredible, and that made me feel incredible. I came running out of the ocean feeling so pumped and adrenaline fuelled, half of me wanted to run straight back in. I can see why Gabby & Kay are so passionate and do it all the time! I felt so pumped and full of endorphins, it left all my body worries behind.

Gabby Dickinson’s beginners guide to wild swimming:

Safety first
Temperatures and current are two of the key things to be very mindful of. On your first swim stay close to the shore and never swim alone in a body of water you are not familiar with. Taking a friend or partner with you is a fun way to unwind and stay safe. As well as checking local websites and tourist information spots, wildswim.com provides additional safety information.

Take your time
Cold water can be dangerous; it fatigues muscles and can cause the body to cramp up. Make sure to ease yourself into the water and listen to your body, allowing it to aclimatise to the temperatures.

Dress for the occasion
The difference between open water swimming and wild swimming is that the latter is all about getting back to basics and enjoying nature in your cossie. That said, beginners may want to start with a wetsuit, especially outside of the summer months. Items such as scuba shoes are good investment as they will protect your feet from jagged rocks in lakes.

Map out a plan
First and foremost wild swimming is about having fun and exploring your surroundings. Have a look at a map, pick out a blue spot and then make sure to research the body of water or the tide times for a coastal swim.

Relax and enjoy the benefits
Wild swimming has great benefits for both your mental health and your fitness levels. The fresh air and natural surroundings are a natural mood booster and the cold immersion soothes muscle aches, relieves depression and boosts the immune system. All wild-swimmers know the natural endorphin high that raises mood, elates the senses and creates an addictive urge to dive back in.

Wild Swimming in North Wales was an incredible experience and I really want to thank Gabby & Haven for giving me this opportunity. I came home with a clearer outlook, and actually felt incredible after having such an amazing experience with Nature. I always to think that to enjoy these sorts of activities you needed to be a size 8 and have a perfect body; but I have come to realise now that its down to our mindset. No matter what bodies we have, be bold and brave and try something new; you will not regret it.

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Haven: As one of Britain’s leading family holiday companies, Haven own and operate 36 award-winning family holiday parks throughout England, Scotland and Wales. They offer a full programme of activities and entertainment alongside being located next to some of Britain’s most beautiful beaches and brightest resorts making them a great base for exploring the local area. September breaks: 3 and 4 night breaks start from £129 Visit Haven.com for further information and booking.

All photos credit to: http://sarahjaneedwardsphotography.com