I realise I’ve done things independently for so long, sometimes instruction, doesn’t sink in straight away. This is what I discovered after spending an enjoyable hour on Chalkwell Beach with The Open Water Swimming Coach, as he delivered a group beginner lesson in open water swimming.
He reminded us of a few of the benefits of open water swimming:
- Connects us with nature
- Wellbeing increases
- Free to do
- Helps boost mood and mental health
- On the doorstep
Mat previously was a cross country runner and suffered a career ending injury doing a park run. Alas, no more running. He began swimming because it was on his doorstep. His desire for the sport built and he wanted to bring the benefits of swimming in open water to everyone.
This beginner session was a place we could start to get to know our capabilities and an important rule when beginning to swim in open water swimming is – swim before high tide.
I use tidetimes.org.uk to check out when high tide is, in Southend on Sea. Mat advises that you always swim with someone else, if you do choose to swim alone, then make sure someone knows where you’re swimming, what time you’re going and when you’re out again safely.
He educated us on the use of brightly coloured tow floats in open water swimming. It helps you to be seen in the water, enables you to take your valuables and belongings with you, rather than leaving them on the beach – the bigger the better. Attached to the body by a lease which straps around the waist, Mat mentioned that it doesn’t seem to cause any drag.
Many swimmers who value tow floats report that the device increases their confidence when they swim in open water whereas many fear that this could cause swimmers to have misplaced judgement and get into difficulties. Outdoor swimming society
I prefer to swim in a swimsuit all year round but many more serious swimmers wear wetsuits. A swimmers wetsuit is different to a diving wetsuit – thinner round the shoulders and stretchy. His recommendation was that you can get a good wetsuit without spending a fortune and wiggle.com is a good site to look at, as they have a helpful returns policy, which enables you to try a few different ones to find out what’s right.
Tips for Open Water Swimming:
- Swim 1.5 hours before high tide
- Goggles are good, polarised to stop the glare off the water, helpful
- For winter swimming, you can buy hats, gloves and boots, if that’s what you want to use
- Hypothermia tricks the mind, so be very careful when swimming in colder water and weather
- Swims should be shorter, the colder it gets
- After swimming – make sure you have a warm drink and plenty of clothes
- Prepare for after your swim, before you swim. Thinking ahead saves lives
- Make sure you have something to eat. (The words of my mum echoed in my mind – don’t swim after eating. A light meal is more sensible than something like a roast but its ok to eat before swimming.)
The average temperature of British and Irish waters is 12-15°C – cold enough to cause cold water shock. Cold water shock makes you gasp uncontrollably and breathe in water, which can quickly lead to drowning. RNLI
Mat said the safest way to enter the water in the winter was slowly, so the body can adapt the temperature of the water better and there is less chance of cold water shock.
Finally he encouraged us to get into the water and enjoy a swim.
I recognised I immediately went into ‘dipper mode’ a place of comfort in the open water which I enjoy but recognise the real value in understanding more about the best way to embrace open water swimming, from a health and safety aspect.
Mat definitely brought this awareness to the forefront during the session and it was great to see an eclectic mix of swimmers. Different ages and abilities – not just from Southend but other places such as Hackney, Grays and Chelmsford.
If there was one thing I would walk away with from this session with. It would be treat the water with respect.
Another opportunity would be to invest in exploring the open water in the capable hands of The Open Water Swimming Coach and learn to love swimming outdoors a little more!
For price list of lessons please visit FB page and PM Mat.