Wild swimming - a dip in the ocean

We've been asking colleagues at Thistle what they do to manage their wellbeing and have fun, particularly throughout the pandemic. Today, Health and Wellbeing Practitioner Mandy shares her experiences of wild swimming.

When friends ask "still enjoying your swimming?" it makes me smile. I've found a thing for me, a thing that keeps me well. I have two very young kids who bring me SO much joy, a lot of sleep deprivation and very little me-time. Swimming has been a tonic!

How did I get into it? 
In July 2020 I asked my friend about her sea swimming and if I could join her some time. Three other friends had asked her the same question and before we knew it we we'd formed the Selkie Sisters and were swimming together every Saturday morning! More and more local friends began to show an interest and my friend set up another WhatsApp group, so there was always someone to swim with each day. Before long, and when Covid restrictions allowed, there was a group of us swimming several times a week at sunrise, sneaking out the house while our little ones were still asleep! I'd found my thing. And the group had become my tribe. 

Why do I love it?
I'm quite a 'cold tattie' so people who know me well are usually surprised to hear about my love for sea swimming! They ask me "is it not cold?!" And yes - it is so cold. So, so cold. But, I tell them it's a different kind of cold. I let the cold water surround me, like a therapy, it makes me feel alive, it touches my skin, makes my legs tingle and go numb, but then I immediately forget about that because my mind is focussing on everything and nothing at the same time.

I'm in flow - a state of mind where I'm completely and fully immersed in what I'm doing. I'm taken away with the breath-taking beauty of my surroundings. The sunrise or sunset and the beautiful silver, blue, pink or purple sky. Sometimes it's grey and dull but the grey has a beauty of its own in the shapes and reflections it makes. Seeing the birds fly overhead, watching the geese immigrate, it feels like a blessing to witness their flight from the sea. The trees, landscape and bridges in the distance. The 'sploosh' of the little ripples makes my heart dance. The playful 'roar' of big crashing waves wakes my spirit and brings out my inner child. My worries and challenges and the exhaustion of mum-life are lessened in the ebb. My resilience is topped up. 

I also love the post-swim hot chocolate and conversations with friends - they are the cherry on  top. Sipping from my thermos while trying to hold my balance and get my swim costume off, making sure my socks are wrapped in my hot water bottle ready to make my toes all cosy! Putting my foot in the wrong leg of my onesie and laughing at life with a new friend. Saying thank you to my swim-buddy as we drive away, knowing we just shared something unique and wonderful. 

I entered 2021 telling myself that - after the madness of 2020 - it would be a better year. That's when I decided to do a swim-a-day adventure: #31SwimsOfJanuary. I felt a great sense of achievement and I let the January blues just disappear into the waves day after day. It kept me sane. It made me excited. I swam in a pair to abide by Covid restrictions, meeting a different swim friend each day. Tea, hot chocolate, tea. Laughs, shrieks, tears. Snow, sun, wind. High tide. Low tide. Sunrise. Sunset. Pitch black 6.15am swims. It never gets dull. It is always sublime.

What would you say to someone interested in getting started?
If you think you fancy giving it a go, my advice would be to always go with a friend. Listen to your body more than ever and start off with a very short dook. Warm up quickly after with plenty of layers, a hot drink and make sure you're ok before you drive/walk home. Let someone know where you are and know your tides. And most importantly of all, breathe in the wild air and always exit wanting more!

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