So, I decided to do something a little bit different today (Sunday). My work has been extended up until the end of November (with a quick trip home to see BF and celebrate his birthday) which means that I have a couple more 24hrs off whilst in this part of the world. Last weekend I had a great night off, visiting a close friend in Brighton. She is lucky enough to have a flat, on the 7th floor, that looks out over Brighton Pier and as the sun came up, I watched the open water swimmers, taking their morning dips in the sea.
I had decided that my NYR, which started in October, was to do something…. a bit different, at least once a month. Step outside my comfort zone; have a microadventure; try something new, that kind of thing. Life is for living, after all. No-one ever said that they wished they spent more time at work. Life is short.
After I had experienced Brockwell Lido at 14.9 degrees in just my swimming costume, I decided to search for other pools. The family I am working with, very kindly let me stay at their flat, so, after collecting my wetsuit from my car (thank goodness I have EVERYTHING I need in my car!) I made my plans.
Saturday night was a night for me to have Dinner For One which is actually one of my favourite things. It had been an overcast, drizzly day all day, but the weather forecast promised sunshine the next day and I woke up to blue sky. Perfect! I had decided to take a trip to Hampstead Heath and take a dip in the Ladies Pond. The temperature has been steadily dropping in the ponds and the lido’s in London, so I had decided to really guard myself against the cold and had a wetsuit, soft core top, booties and gloves with a wooly hat to go on top of my head. My breakfast of two boiled eggs inside me with a latte in my keepcup, I set off, from Victoria up to Hampstead Heath.
I had to catch two tubes and a bus which took about 40 mins and the last section on the bus, I could feel my heart quickening. This was actually something a bit nerve wracking for me. As a child I had developed a phobia for cold water (not good when you are a competative swimmer) and I had hypnotherapy to get me through it. I’m never sure if it actually helped, I think it was more me that did it, but I learnt calming techniques over the years. I also wasn’t good at swimming in open water, but a holiday in Turkey with Swimtrek, seems to have pretty much sorted that out.
And so, feeling a bit shaky, with my heart beating fast I disembarked and entered the park. At the entrance to the ladies pond, there are wrought iron gates. As I opened the gate, a woman was just walking up the path with damp hair and a smile on her face. “How is it, what’s the temperature?” I asked. She told me that it was 6-7 degrees. We had a little chat as she told me that she had her wetsuit with her, but the lifeguard convinced her to go with out and just wear her boots and gloves. “You’ll love it,” she reassured me as she turned to go. More women were passing me, all with huge smiles on their faces. This was I wanted. I wanted that buzz; the tingling in my body.
I paid my two pounds and walked through the entrance to take on the most amazing view. A pond, surrounded by trees and bathed in sunshine, with rings dotted about to swim around. There were two women in there, in just their swimming costumes, briskly swimming breaststroke. Two ladders, one in sunshine and one in the shade, were our aids to get in the water. As I watched the women swimming, two more women came up beside me to lean on the barrier. I aked them if they regularly swam here. One of them said she came once a month, the other one lived around the corner and came whenever she could. They were both swimming in skins, and were more than happy for me to tag along… at least until I got in the water 🙂
We went into the changing rooms and I was confronted by about 20 women, all in various stages of getting dressed. I couldn’t believe how busy it was! A few were standing in buckets of warm water. All were buzzing and joking about how they couldn’t feel various parts of their body. After much deliberation, I decided that I would wear all my gear. A lady explained to me that she swam 3 times a week here and had started in September when the water temperature was in the 20’s, so she had acclimatised to the steady drop.
I was ready to go. Once on the platform, one of the ladies peeled off to the left and swiftly plunged in. “That’s the way to do it,” said the lady I was with, “just get straight in, no fannying about.” She was wearing a bikini, gloves and socks and she quickly descended the steps and pushed off. My turn next. I carefully stepped down into the murky water and then pushed off, doing “old lady breastroke” as I felt the cold water enter my wetsuit. I caught up with a woman who had a wooly hat on her head and she asked me if the wetsuit made any difference to the cold. I did wonder if it did, as I tried to get my breathing under control.
By the time I had made the first turn, my breathing was normal, my body didn’t feel too cold and my toes were toasty. My fingers, though, were another matter. I think it was more to do with me not sealing the gloves, as they were numb pretty quickly. But it was heavenly. The pool was bathed in sunshine; the women I swam with were chattering away and we all had huge grins on our faces. After two turns around the pool, we decided to get out. I know I could have stayed in longer if my hands weren’t so cold, as my core was fine, but it seemed the right thing to do. A warm shower and star jumps in the sunshine to get the blood pumping and then my swimming buddies left me.
I felt amazing. I had done something that was a big thing to me and my body was tingling. I wandered back to look at the water. Photography isn’t allowed, but the lifeguard let me take a quick photo as there was no-one in at that moment. Such a wonderful start to a sunny Sunday. Shall definitely be doing more cold water swimming during the winter….