In the last few years swimming has become an exercise staple.
From spring through to autumn, I take to the seas and rivers and so when the warmer weather arrived it was time to get back into the brine.
My usual swim spot is Torbay, South Devon.
Torbay has lots of advantages because its waters are fairly safe. It faces east and is sheltered from the prevailing south westerlies.
It’s a natural curving harbour so the sea has hardly any currents. It is also absolutely beautiful: red sandstone cliffs, sweeping sands and secretive coves.
My regular haunt is Torre Abbey Sands in Torquay. It’s a long sandy beach with plenty of places to sit and enjoy the sunshine either along the sea front or inland slightly at Torre Abbey Meadows.
For me, the best thing is its high tides which mean you can hop into the sea from sets of steps without touching the ground. Straight in!
Most the time I wear a wetsuit because it means I can stay in for longer. This is usually preceded by an exhausting five minutes getting into it and when I’m all zipped up, my bladder decides it wants relieving. Every. Single. Time.
I tend to swim early when the world is waking up.
I love being in the water. It takes me back to my childhood and long summer days on the beach, diving into waves and feeling the currents move and swirl and dance.
There’s heaps of studies that show swimming is good for us in so many ways: sleep, circulation, metabolism, anxiety reduction and more. But I like it most for the sense of adventure and fun and carefree abandon.
It normally takes me a while to get comfortable; I’m not one of those brave souls who’s immediately powering off in a strong front crawl. I sort of… potter around, practising my strokes, changing from breast to front and occasionally doing a weird doggy paddle/front crawl hybrid.
Other times I’ll turn over like a seal and float around, head up, or I’ll star fish out, stretching my limbs and feeling the water lap against me. I don’t even care what I look like.
Today, the forecast was good: a mild start with no wind. I decided to brave it without a wetsuit.
The tide was flowing so off I went with a post-swim kit including a woolly hat and hot coffee.
I stood at the water’s edge pulling on my neoprene boots and chatting to other friendly regulars. The sea, mermaid silk underneath platinum skies, gave the bay an ethereal shimmering shine.
Legs in, body in; the coolness of the water is an icy burn across my skin. Wow-wee! A few deep breaths and the sensation eases. Seagulls soar and swifts pinwheel like little spitfire planes.
I feel like time slows down. I’m in my own little salty world. I concentrate on the movements of my body and my breathing. And ok – not thinking of sea monsters when some seaweed brushes past.
But mostly I’m in the moment with the gulls and the swifts and the silk of the mermaids.
Tip: stay safe. Always check the tides, weather and sea conditions before you go. It sounds obvious but make it a habit to tell someone where you’re going and how long you’ll be there for. The sea may look benign but can quickly change. If you’re going to a beach with lifeguard cover, swim between the flags.
Tip: wear a wetsuit (short or long) and invest in neoprene boots and gloves. Wetsuits are great and extend your swimming season. Hands and feet can get cold quickly too. Oh, and my wetsuit mostly prevents any irrational mini freak out from skin making contact with my passing flotsam or jetsam. Mostly.
Tip: build up your confidence. Swim parallel to the shore and do short distances/times and progress from there. It’s much nicer to emerge from the sea feeling pleased with yourself – it’s meant to be fun! – rather than struggling or, worse still, getting into difficulty.
Tip: take a snack and a drink for after. I love my post-swim coffee and munchies. It’s surprising how hungry I feel even when I’m just star-fishing for minutes on end. If you’re swimming in the cooler months, take warm clothing so you don’t get cold.
Tip: take all your litter and belongings home with you, obvs.
Happy swimming! xx