Great North Swim

Wild swimming for the complete novice

7 August 2019

Staff Blogger

For someone who has never open water swam, who is nervous of the unknown and is very comfortable being on dry land, I challenged myself to do the Great North Swim this year. Terrified but determined, I started to do some training with an experienced friend, and you know what? It was nowhere near as bad as I thought! I share some of my top tips for complete novice’s, like me, to help you become a water lover like I have become.

It’s only a fish

As an avid watcher of Robson Green’s Extreme Fishing, the picture I drew in my head of the average fish you’re likely to find in a lake is slightly warped. No matter how many times I was told “they’re more scared of you than you are of them”, I couldn’t shake the fear of something touching my foot the very first time I mustered the courage to transition from local swimming pool to 56m deep lake. Turns out, Coniston water isn’t home to Goliath Grouper or Barracuda and I needn’t have worried. It’s true, fish really are more scared of you and are unlikely to venture anywhere near you. But if they do, it’s only a fish!

Stay away from google

Googling the depth of every lake in the Lake District isn’t something I’d recommend before going for a swim, if of course your intent is just to scare yourself. When in the water, focus on your swimming and breathing technique and actively pull the water to propel yourself. I found this a great way to distract myself from any fears or anxieties.

Tow floats and swim caps are a must

As a complete novice I had no idea that wild swimming came with its own set of kit. I now know tow floats are large brightly coloured inflatables that you tow as you swim. They’re excellent for visibility and holding on to should you need a breather! Brightly coloured swim caps is also a must when swimming to help boat users see you. Be warned, if something does touch your foot (see point 1) it’s more likely to be the rope from the float than anything with teeth.

Practice makes perfect

Wild swimming… is outside, meaning that unfortunately, there isn’t a roof. Something I had not taken into consideration was that the weather massively affects the type of swim you will have. Swimming in the wind generates waves and waves can be difficult to swim in. Be prepared, judge the conditions before entering the water and you won’t go too far wrong!

Enjoy yourself

In water much colder than your body temperature, and much deeper than you’re used to, this one can very easily be forgotten. Someone once told me about “type 2 fun”, which they described as something that’s only fun once you’ve stopped doing it – think running or circuit training. But, in fact, you’re in the coolest swimming pool ever surrounded by beautiful views. Look around! Breathe it in! Swimming with a friend (if you can convince one to join you) and using the time for a catch up will certainly help. Make sure you're prepared when heading out swimming.

Staff Blogger

Kirby Taylor

A once before very nervous swimmer and now a lover for the lakes.

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