Winter Open Water Swimming – remind me why this was a good idea?

Low Wood Bay has hosted many open water swim events from its enviable lakeside location in the Lake District. Events include the Great North Swim - an open water summer swim in the great outdoors, or for those brave enough to tackle the cold, The Chill Swim which recently attracted 570 brave souls in 2014. We have also cheered on Davina McCall as she completed the open water section of her Beyond Breaking Point Sport Relief challenge.

As a result, open-water fever has gripped a number of English Lakes employees who have taken to the water as a personal challenge including David Neale, English Lakes Commercial Director.

The joys of open water swimming

Ian Woods and David Neale

Ian Woods and David Neale

I discovered the joys of open water swimming about 3 years ago as I took on the challenge of the Great North Swim in Lake Windermere.

However, being just an occasional and weak swimmer contemplating a mile in open water, I needed help! I found it in the form of Lee Read swim coach at the Low Wood Club, Low Wood Bay. Lee taught me the basics of breathing and building a sustainable swim stroke and a few months later I had the satisfaction of completing the one mile swim along with thousands of others.

in-waterLast summer I was joined in my open water training by friend and colleague Ian Woods. A very good runner in his time (and ex–Olympic Biathlete) Ian was looking to recover fitness following an argument with a mountain bike and a fractured pelvis. Our weekly training swims started in the warm waters of summer with lake temperatures touching 20 degrees. September arrived and the water started to cool. At some stage we decided it would be a good idea to try to keep swimming through the winter.

Winter swimming has certainly been a challenge. Month by month we have invested in more neoprene – boots, gloves and hats to add to the wet-suit. At time of writing the water temperature is hovering around 5 degrees Celsius and I am trying to remind myself why this seemed a good idea.

swim

The biggest challenge in cold water is trying to relax and breathe slowly as the cold water shock on your face causes your ribcage and lungs to contract creating a sense of breathlessness. Initially it’s pretty painful on the head too. After about 10 minutes the body does seem to settle into a rhythm and it’s almost enjoyable.

Allegedly this winter training will make our open water swims in spring and summer feel so much easier – let’s hope so!

  • Written by David Neale, Commercial Director

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