Sunday, May 6, 2018

How an Open Water tryout led to a cross-Channel swim

"“An open water swim takes all those stresses away for the time you’re out there"

If you're interested in doing open water swimming, why not sign up for our next Come & Try event at Loch Lomond? Click here to book now.

Jacqueline Hall tried out open water swimming with the aim of meeting new people and experiencing something new.

Little did she know that a couple of years later she’d be gearing up for a cross-Channel swim because she loved the open water experience so much!

Jacqueline started by taking part in Scottish Swimming’s Come & Try events at Knockburn Loch and Loch Lomond, and in the next few years she says she’ll attempt to cross the 21-mile English Channel.

Jacqueline said: “Trying out Open Water for the first time definitely wet my appetite for more. I’m hopefully going to do a channel relay next year and I’ve already booked slots for doing a channel solo in 2020!”

The main reasons for Jacqueline continuing to swim open water – and to try more each year – are the mental and physical benefits she feels each and every time she immerses herself under the water.

“It’s 100 percent different from being in a pool, being in a loch brings a lot more peace. When you’re swimming in a loch you don’t have to worry about getting bumped in lanes or anything like that.

“And, especially in Scotland, you’ve got all that scenery around you to admire and if it’s clear you can see wildlife below you. It’s the best feeling in the world.”

“I’ve done swims in Banff and around Cullen since I started and I’ve seen kelp beds, spider crabs, fish. I’ve been out on a swim with seals watching you, it’s amazing.”

Jacqueline, who works as a Social Work Team Manager, feels the freedom and tranquillity provided by open water swimming helps relieve stress in particular. She said: “An open water swim takes all those stresses away for the time you’re out there. It helps you focus your brain and get your head in the right space for the next challenge, whatever that may be.

“Being out in the open water really helps your mental wellbeing. You don’t have to be the fastest, you can take it at your own space and spend time looking around and still having a good time.

“But if you want to put your head down and go for it you can and that’s what appeals to me, you can go for a time or for peace, like for example I was at Knockburn two weeks ago and it was just me and three geese!”

On top of the mental benefits, Jacqueline said, “Physically, it makes you feel healthier.” She added: “I’m not a good runner, I’m a middle aged lady and my weight isn’t perfect but it doesn’t stop me swimming.”

She’s come a long way from a newcomer to the open water, but is a perfect example of what can be achieved if you put your mind to something.

“For my first Come & Try I had to borrow a wetsuit, I just really wanted to give it a go,” she said. “It looked fun and after I’d done the Come & Try it encouraged me to go on and do a mile at Loch Lomond.

“I just kept progressing because I was enjoying it to the point where I actually went and did a 10K last year.”

Jacqueline said she was “a combination of excited and nervous” in the run-up to her 10k swim. “I’d been encouraged to do it but I was still thinking ‘Will I get there?’” she said.

“I continued on at Knockburn after doing the Come & Try events there and I was pretty certain I could swim it, it would just be question of whether I’d do it in a regulated time!”

But Jacqueline had nothing to worry about as she went out and managed to swim the distance in under three and a half hours, a very respectable time.

She added that the coaches were “really positive” and helped make everyone feel more confident. And when asked to describe the feeling of finishing that swim, she said: “Satisfaction and enjoyment. Those were the two main feelings I had but also a bit of surprise that I had actually managed it and did better than I thought I would.

So you’ve heard from Jacqueline and now it’s time to see it for yourself – you too can feel satisfied and full of enjoyment. You may even surprise yourself too.

Sign up for our first Open Water Come & Try event in Fife at Loch Ore here, with activities for all abilities.

And read more about Open Water Swimming here.