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If not now, then when?

English Channel swimmer, open water coach and swimming teacher Joanne Jones writes a personal view on returning to the open water

Since the government announced relaxed lockdown in England on Sunday night, I’ve had a steady back-and-forth in my head about whether I want to swim.

I always thought I’d be back to the river as soon as possible. I can feel my fitness go, and the weight start to pile on, and I don’t really have the motivation to do land exercise. I’ve dipped in a shallow bit of the Kennet walking distance from my house, which helps, but it’s not the same as a proper swim.

Without in any way diminishing the risks of open water swimming, it isn’t the swimming that worries me. I’m confident of my ability, and have a rolling risk assessment informed by the safety guidelines and advice available.

I’m more nervous about seeing other people (even just one other person). It seems odd after so long not seeing anyone.

I’m also uneasy about driving. 30 minutes suddenly seems quite far to drive after being limited to occasional short trips to the shops in recent weeks.

Having said that, I’ll have to overcome both of those reservations at some point. So if not now, then when?

I’m not convinced that now is the time to relax lifting the lockdown, so I try to set timelines in my head for when I return to the water: When Scotland and Wales relax lockdown? When the number of new COVID-19 cases falls further? When we can see people in closer proximity?

Then my mind tries to argue the case again.

If I meet one person, and we stay 2 metres apart, and I drive in a car with just me in it, I’m not risking spreading the virus. The risk of “what if” is always a factor for swimmers – so why is this different? I can be responsible for myself, wear appropriate safety kit and swim cautiously.

I have no ‘conclusion’ yet. But journaling my thoughts on whether to swim or not is helping. I write this with no judgment: if you’re on the fence, I am too.

I may swim soon; I might wait a while. I might swim once, realise I don’t feel comfortable with it, and not go again for a while.

Whatever your stance is, think it through, think for yourself, and don’t rush in because of fear of missing out. The water isn’t going anywhere. With wild swimming, we’re responsible for ourselves – and so we have to be comfortable with the decision we make.

The water will be there for when you do decide to swim, and whenever that is, be safe and have fun.

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