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Take your (open water) swims when you can

There’s a saying among swimmers that you “never regret a swim”. I don’t know if that’s an infallible truth but there’s certainly some wisdom in it.
Last weekend Jonathan and I were representing team H2Open at the Great North Swim in Windermere. We arrived late Thursday night, spent Friday morning setting up and then both took part in the 5km swim before spending the rest the day on our feet talking to other swimmers and selling magazines.
By six we were exhausted but, on Colin Hill’s (of Chillswim) recommendation, decided to go up to Rydal Water for another (more relaxing) swim. I’ve never been before but had heard good things. I wasn’t disappointed. We parked on the east side and followed a footpath around the northern end to a stony beach on the western shore. Rydal Water is relatively shallow and much smaller than Windermere, and Friday had been a hot sunny day. We measured the water temperature at around 18 or 19 degrees, a good (and very noticeable) two to three degrees warmer than Windermere. A relaxed swim around one of the islands was the perfect cure from the aches and stiffness resulting from a day on my feet.
On Saturday, and most of Sunday, we were too busy to swim or take part in any of the other racing waves at the Great North Swim. Then, on Sunday afternoon, after we had packed up and were ready to drive back to London, we stopped for a fortifying coffee on the terrace at Langdale Chase Hotel, which is run by English Channel swimmer Thomas Noblett. There we were joined by Oceans Seven swimmer Adam Walker and the talk turned to whether or not we should take a dip before hitting the road. The conclusion – despite being tired and having a long way to drive – was that we should.
I don’t know how or why, but the water this time felt significantly colder than on Friday – maybe it was the comparison to Rydal Water or maybe it was just tiredness at the end of a long weekend. Still, in we went, ended up splashing around for 15 or 20 minutes, and came out feeling fresh and ready to tackle the six-hour drive back to London.
Both of those swims could have been avoided with any number of excuses. Both required a physical and mental effort to get to, and both were one hundred percent worth doing. It is quite often the case that we miss out on swims because of the barriers in getting there. Britain’s Lake District is particularly conducive to open water swimming but even there you may have to overcome some mental inertia or make some physical effort to reach the water.
The next time you have an opportunity to swim somewhere amazing, even if you’re tired or it requires a bit of effort to get in the water, do your best to make it happen. I can’t promise you won’t regret it, but I’m pretty certain you’ll be glad you did.
Image: Rydal Water