Sharon is one of our Community Development Coordinators.
I set myself a goal a few years ago and that was to learn to swim freestyle. I would go to the pool and swim breaststroke and watch people in the lane next to me whizzing up down so smoothly and that’s what I wanted to do.
I started by booking a course of lessons with a fantastic coach and started my journey. My first lesson was awful, and I wasn’t keen on going back. I hated putting my face in the water, it filled me with dread, but I persevered. I went back each Monday evening and slowly started to develop the skills and build my confidence until eventually I could swim a length! We swam in the outside pool some nights and one night there was a conversation about bringing our wetsuits to try swimming in (they were all triathletes)The only wetsuit I had was one I messed about in the sea in when we went camping. So each week I listened to people talking about Open Water swimming and got sucked into the idea of having a go. But first I needed to get better at swimming.
When my lessons finished, my coach said just keep practising and the rest will come! So, that’s what I did, I went to the pool as often as possible. I remember feeling really frustrated because I couldn’t get passed so many lengths without stopping and then finally it all clicked into place. Now this felt like a good time to see what this open water swimming lark was all about! I kitted myself out with the gear and headed up to the local dive centre where you can swim. It is a big, deep quarry 10 minutes from my house. I have to admit I was pretty scared at the thought of this experience, I don’t like seaweed when I am in the sea and there are divers, huge carp and huge pieces of sunken machinery that the divers
explore below me, not to forget the cold, dark water too!
Anyway, I braved the water, the first time I got in it was 11 degrees, so I wasn’t in for long, but that was the start of my love affair with open water swimming. I have since gone on to do numerous events in lakes in the lake district and even a SwimRun event where you swim in the sea. I have to say that this year once my local dive centre opened after lockdown, I have gone every week, sometimes 3 times a week. It’s hard to explain the buzz I get from it. Every time I enter the water, I get a feeling of anticipation of the experience of the cold on my body and particularly my face as it enters the water. But once I am in I quickly acclimatise and it is the most peaceful, relaxing experience; I find it quite hypnotic and swim 6-8 laps each time. I lose myself in the moment and then when you get out, you feel giddy and euphoric.
There has been a group of us that have swum throughout the pandemic and we have become such good friends and supported each other throughout and we are so excited because we have just heard they are staying open throughout the winter, so I have just bought gloves and socks to continue. I am happy to say it has meant so much to me and kept me grounded throughout the pandemic, the good company, the connection with outdoors, dealing with my fears (of fish and divers which still freak me out) and the fitness aspect of it is just brilliant!