Wednesday, July 6, 2016

Swim Social Blog: Chris Kane on Open Water Swimming, "Why Have I Never Done This Before?"

Blog: With an abundance of lochs in amazing locations just a short drive from our homes, and more and more organised events like the Great Scottish Swim at Loch Lomond in August, all you really need is a wetsuit and a structured way to learn how to adapt your swimming pool skills and be safe in different environments. 

Last year I took to the water at a “Come and Try” event at the Helix Lagoon, Falkirk for my first open water swim and came out of the water an hour later thinking “why have I never done this before?”  (you can read more about my experience here: Outdoor swimming? Give it a try and you won't look back!). This year I stayed out of the water and caught up with some of the 100 or swimmers who had signed up for the event at the Helix (11 June 2016). 

There are the curious swimmers, who for whatever reason are drawn to the open water and want to experience the wonderful scenery of Scotland from a different perspective.  There are the training swimmers who have a triathlon date in the diary and need to hone their skills. There are the goal orientated swimmers who’ve signed up for an event like the Great Scottish Swim and want to ensure they have the skills to complete the course.  Then there are the accidental swimmers, who are there because they know somebody in one of the other three categories.

29 year old David Sinclair is one of the accidental swimmers. He says, “This is probably the fourth time I’ve swam in about fourteen years.  My skin reacts quite badly to chlorine in swimming pools, so it is just not worth the hassle.  But this was great and I’m really impressed with the experience.  For starters, its actually warm in your wetsuit – I’ve been paddling in the water at beaches on holiday and that id decidedly chilly in comparison.  I hadn’t appreciated that the wetsuit helps you stay afloat.”

David was there to support his partner Sarah and get to work on a promise he had made to join her at least once in a triathlon.  29 nine year old Sarah is a open water swimming convert, saying “I started running, then got on my bike and then thought I’d like to try a triathlon and started swimming.  During the winter you have to train in a pool, but outdoor swimming is fantastic.  I had my first outdoor dip last week and when I came home it was almost like I was drunk with happiness – I’d forgotten how much fun it is.  I love the contrast between leaving work in an office and forty minutes later being in the water, surrounded by friends and mountains and scenery and it is just fantastic and refreshing”. 

51 year old Jackie Sharp from Stirling was one of the swimmers with a goal in mind.  She attends a weekly swimming session at Stirling University.  Jackie says, “I’ve only just learned to swim front crawl in the last couple of years and I thought, if I can learn a new stroke at my age, then maybe I can do more.  I’m here today with my friend Sharon and we’ve booked to swim a mile at the Great Scottish Swim at Loch Lomond in August”.  

Jackie was trying open water swimming for the first time and enjoyed the experience.  She says, “It was a very supportive environment and it was great to get coaching – and it was great to finally get to swim in the open water. It was a bit daunting because I’ve got asthma, but now I know what I need to practice and I’ll go away and start to do that.  Sessions like this one are great because you get lots of tips and you learn now to be less dangerous to yourself when you’re in the water.” 

33 year old Vic Williams had a reason for trying open water swimming that will resonate with a lot of recreational swimmers, saying “The pool near my house isn’t open at times that are convenient for me and there is usually only one lane reserved for swimming.  I’ve got a friend who swims in lochs and it just sounds like it would be a lovely environment so I wanted to see what it was like.  I thought the instructors today were really good; I thought open water swimming would be good, after today I know it is.  I’d definitely encourage anybody to give it a go”. 

So whether you’ve always fancied giving open water swimming a go, already have a goal in mind or simply find yourself next to a group of people in wetsuits and pink swimcaps, open water swimming has never been more accessible. 

Sarah Lumsden had the best response of the day when I asked what she would say to anybody thinking of trying open water swimming – “you have to try it! It is amazing, we are not crazy and just give it a shot”.  I’d add preferably at a Scottish Swimming organised event – check out for events and ideas! 

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