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The magic of swimming

Great Barrier Reef Snorkelling, 2008

I love to swim. It brings me a real sense of freedom. I’m always happy when I’m in the water and know it shows, as many people have commented on it. I feel such pride when a fellow swimmer calls me a dolphin!

My passion for swimming began when I was very young. I went regularly to my local pool and swimming club every Friday night. I’m very grateful for my parents teaching me at such a young age. Swimming engages every fibre of muscle in the body and increases your metabolic rate. As water is far more resistant than air, significant gains can be made faster than on land. I am always doing personal bests with weights after a period of swimming.

With my love of nature and exploring, swimming in the wild is even greater fun! I discovered it after researching local swimming groups, with my usual ethos of ‘you don’t know unless you try’, and I’ve been a wild swimmer ever since. Sure, it can be very cold, but the body quickly adjusts. It’s so liberating to get up onto the rocks and dive into lakes, I feel like a child again when making a splash! I especially love it when the birds are brave enough to join me. I am so lucky to live in Bath, a short distance from lakes with the most beautiful surrounding areas. For medical reasons, I have to avoid swimming alone in the wild, but luckily it’s a very social activity and so much fun to share with friends.

My relationship with swimming could have been changed forever after the hit and run in 1996, because it happened on the way to the pool. I have written before about how my brain can associate things with traumatic experiences, such as the rape and Gap jumpers or Africa. However, I am pleased to say that I have never felt anxious or upset when I get in a pool or cross the road to the entrance. I feel this shows just how much I love to swim - it brings me too much joy for my brain to associate it with negative emotions. Swimming has stayed mine, free from the traumas; my oasis.

Swimming has helped me lots with my recoveries. It’s a top exercise which stimulates brain chemicals and releases endorphins that work to lower stress, increase pleasure and significantly relieve anxiety and depression. The extra blood flow to the brain improves mood, memory, focus and clarity. Research shows that swimming can even potentially reverse brain damage by promoting hippocampal neurogenesis, i.e regrowth of new brain cells. I see swimming as a kind of medicine and it’s very meditative.

I couldn’t recommend swimming more for fitness and overall wellbeing. Get your flippers on!!

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