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I tried open water swimming at Colwick Park and absolutely loved it after nearly backing out

todayJune 19, 2022 1

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It’s 7am in the morning and I am standing in a swimming costume in the middle of Colwick Park staring at the lake I am too afraid to jump into. As a regular visitor to the park, I’ve often wondered what it’s like to jump in and go swimming and now I’m about to find out.

In planning to join in the early morning fun, I’ve realised three important things: this will mean a very early morning wake-up call and also it means being in a swimming costume in public. I also have no idea where my lost long swimming costume actually is.

Cat Wynne and Justine Wales are the owners of Whole Health and they have been operating the sessions for two years. It offers a safe, supported and coached open swimming session with lifeguards on duty.



I finally got up the courage to pop into the water and was surprised at how refreshing it was
I finally got up the courage to pop into the water and was surprised at how refreshing it was

“We had been running this for a few years but the council got in touch to ask if we wanted to run the sessions. That’s when Wales and I got involved because we were already doing triathlon and swim coaching. It’s really taken off and it’s quite busy now.”

The sessions can get quite busy especially when the weather is good. However, some of the really dedicated swimmers are there all year round including in 2-degree lake temperatures.

“This will be quite a busy session because of the water temperature. It’s a much smaller group when it’s freezing. We did a running-in dip on New Year’s Day where we broke the ice on the water. We do one on Boxing Day too,” Cat said. “People come to be outside in nature as it’s a beautiful park and body of water. People feel the benefits of being in the cold water and it can feel very meditative getting in too.”

Even at 7am, the water has already tested at 21 degrees so it’s the perfect day for the first attempt at a swim. I’m grateful for this because I’m still not convinced I have the nerve to jump in yet.

Many of the people arriving have had the good sense to wear a robe over their swimming costumes or wet suits. I’ve walked from town so I still have layers to shed. Turns out I am surprisingly shy but good at wiggling out of skinny jeans in public. I find the secret is to give up halfway through and absolutely tear them off you.

Cat helps me to find a float to tie around my waist which helps the swimmers to stay visible in the water. Both Cat and Justine are on hand to help anyone who gets into difficulty but the floats also provide a bit of reassurance.

I realise I’ve successfully wasted enough time and it’s now or never. A small voice in my head tells me that I could walk away now and no one would ever need to know but I know I can’t. I’ve already told my partner, my friends and worse than that, I’ve told my dad who will never let me live it down.

The initial shock to the system is brief when I do get in as it still feels a bit fresh. I’m surprised at how quickly I warm up once I’ve had the courage to duck my shoulders under. It does take me longer to get my head under and quite a few colourful words when the cold water properly hits me.

One of the most surprising bonuses to this is the way it makes you feel both from a mental health perspective and also, from a post-Covid recovery perspective. I found that I was able to breathe a bit easier and also, I felt uplifted as I dried off in the sun.

I wasn’t the only swimmer who felt like this as I chatted to some of the other, more regular, visitors.

“This is only my second time at Colwick Park but it’s great and really refreshing. I’ve not done it when it’s cold but it feels great to get out and swim a long way in the environment rather than a pool,” said Andrew Walters.



Early morning swimming at Colwick Park is a great way to keep fit
Early morning swimming at Colwick Park is a great way to keep fit

Jenny Gibbon from Beeston was in agreement: “This is my first time at Whole Health but I’ve done wild swimming before. I’ve not done it during the winter – I’m not hardy enough for that. It makes you feel a bit happier and you get a bit of a buzz.”

Just as I was feeling a bit smug for having taken my 21-degree dip, I spoke to Lee Harrison from Sherwood who has been coming to the sessions for a few months after challenging herself to take on the winter waters.

“I set myself a challenge to see how far I could swim into the winter without a wetsuit because I had seen other women do it and thought they were impressive. I got to the end of November and then just kept going. The coldest was 2 degrees and that was fantastic. I knew I could keep going for the rest of the winter after that because it wouldn’t get much colder,” she said.

Written by: thehitnetwork

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