When the swimming is wild!

What a difference a couple of weeks makes! Two weeks ago I was skipping about on Ganilly sandbar, barefoot and shimmering in my sequinned mermaid coat in the September sunshine and now Storm Alex is blasting through the Isles of Scilly with a vengeance. This wintery backdrop is however, perfect for my latest fitness push.

White horses in the channel would normally have me turn my bike around and head off to the opposite side of the island in search of calmer waters out of the prevailing wind. But recently I've reviewed my fitness regime and have found myself lacking. I've been in this comfort zone for years now, smug in the knowledge that sea swimming without a wetsuit was a great form of exercise. But I wasn't really making much progress. (Yes, I do know that swimming around Tresco was an impressive achievement, but that was a one-off, not a daily push.)

If you're a long term follower of the blog then you'll know that I constantly strive to be the best me I can be. I'm driven by the inner childhood angst of not being good enough and nothing I've done in life seems to have eradicated that. Don't feel sorry for me - I don't feel sorry for myself, in fact I'm grateful to have this fuel to burn and propel me further onto better things. If I'd had an idyllic childhood I may not have ended up where I am now and that would be the tragedy!

Anyway, back to the swimming. As I said, I've recently decided to throw the gauntlet down to myself by searching out the windswept beach of the day. This came about when last weekend Fiona and I swam together and I found myself struggling and lacking stamina. It was a swim against the tide at one point and this defeated me at times, causing me to roll over and float on my back as I caught my breath. No biggie really, but I like to view myself as fairly fit and that's not how I felt. The following day I went back to the same beach and repeated the same swim on my own. My focus was sharp as was my intention, plus I had researched the tide and planned to swim the most challenging leg of the swim first, against the tide, when I was at my strongest, turning around and benefiting from the following tide on the way back. I cracked it and more importantly, it was a fresher day, the sea was more lively and somehow more energising. I was hooked!

These shots were from Saturday which was also my 39th wedding anniversary. Steve's gift was to accompany me and take these shots for the blog - generous soul he is! 

The first moment of immersion is the gasp point, but thereafter it's all about calming the breath and keeping moving as movement is what stops you getting cold. I concentrate my thoughts on counting the breath initially; up to 70 breaths and I'm no longer feeling aware of the temperature, but am looking at the scene ahead, deciding how far I'll swim today. Appletree Bay is the perfect length for a there and back swim. I'm not sure how long the beach is, but it's a comfortable swim. Pentle Bay is much longer and I'm more prone to getting chilled when I swim the whole way along and back.

This tow float is my latest bit of kit, designed to keep the wearer seen and safe. It's from the UK company Swim Secure.  It's small and virtually drag free and is also available in pink if you prefer. It's really important for me to feel safe in the water, especially because we have such a lot of boating traffic here on the islands. During the summer there are lots of visitors who hire boats for fun things like water skiing and do-nutting, both of which require the driver to be looking behind for a lot of the time. They'll often use the same lovely long stretch of beaches to do this as we sea swimmers will. Fiona and I will check the horizon for boats before we get in, but half way through a swim you can sometimes find your safety compromised when a speed boat turns up on a jolly. That's when a tow float like this comes into its own. As it's drag free it doesn't impact on my swim and in fact helps me relax into the flow of the moment, safe in the knowledge that I'm highly visible from afar. 

Swimming alone in the winter in choppy waters could also be a dangerous time, but I'm confident that the float is visible even when sometimes I'm not.

The Swim Secure message is simple - Be Safer Be Seen. Much as this might look like I'm out in deep water, I'm always within reach of the shore. There's no way I'd be doing anything risky nor would I want to put others at risk through my own stupidity. 

Cresting the waves sometimes had me lifted out of the water, crashing back down with a jolt. It's crazy, but somehow exhilarating too!

Flushed with success. This was indeed wild swimming! It was a brilliant way to start the day, especially on our anniversary.

Hot honey and lemon is the reward for my wild endeavours. The afterglow sets in and honestly I can't begin to describe the immense feeling of well-being that this gives me. Winter always brings with it the dreaded S.A.D. symptoms which plague me, but goodness knows how much worse these would be without my daily dose of this adrenaline rush.

I've written about the benefits of cold water swimming before, but I would like to revisit this topic as featured on the Swim Secure website. The seven points in its favour are -

  • An increased tolerance to stress
  • A boost to self esteem
  • The mindfulness effect
  • Decreased inflammation
  • Increased immunity
  • Radiant skin
  • Post swim high
See the full feature here. If you're dreading the long dark winter days ahead then you may want to consider winter swimming at your local lido or wild swimming with a group of like-minded friends. I can't recommend it enough - it's turned my life around.

And finally, here's a lovely shot of hubby and me on our honeymoon 39 years ago. My, my, look at how young we were!

 Have a great week everyone!

Anna x



  1. Happy Anniversary, Anna and Steve! Look at you kids!

    Anna, I'm always so impressed that you swim "in the wild" of the ocean - I haven't swum in our ocean in decades - it's extremely cold and we have wild currents, so you have to be in a beach area. We also have orcas here, and I wouldn't want to be mistaken for a snack! However, I'm not much of a swimmer anyway, but I do get my intense walk on regularly, doing an 8K loop down at the waterfront.

    Glad you're being safe - you're right, you are barely visible at times. Your orange float is awesome!

    Have a good week, my dear!

    1. Last winter I did a whole lot of walking when I was land bound and must admit that it did have very similar beneficial effects on my mood. I do wonder if we had orcas might I not be so keen on sea swimming either!

      Hope you're having a great week x

  2. I loved this story! I hope one day to give wild swimming a try even though I'm not a great swimmer now. I can totally imagine how it makes you feel like such a part of the planet, a land creature in the wild ocean. And giving it a bit of danger by being out in the wild rather than a pool. This definitely seems up my alley!

    1. Lovely to hear from you again Julia. Up until I came here I was always a pool swimmer, but living by the sea it seems almost rude not to access these amazing clear waters. I love the sense of freedom and yes, connection with nature that sea swimming gives me. Do try it if you ever get the chance!

  3. I’m impressed Anna. I can imagine that it takes much stamina to exercise in this way and to continue with it in the long term. I do love to swim, but always in a warm pool and never in the wild. I’d love to give it a try!
    I really like the idea of the safety float, it’s certainly visible and, no chance now of you not being seen!

    Lovely honeymoon snap; great to look back on and reminisce. X

    1. Sea swimming is a great way for me to push my boundaries and improve my strength and stamina too. I've done pool swimming in the past, but it lacks the impact that cold water swimming has on the immune system - oh how I love that afterglow!

  4. So brave Anna, well done. Super photos as well Hun. Jacqui x

    1. Thank you so much Jacqui! Not sure I'm brave though - slightly mad maybe... x

  5. I know I said it on Insta but happy belated anniversary again! You are an inspiration with your sea swimming and I am glad you are working on bettering yourself with it. IF, oh IF, I had somewhere near me to swim, I would. I am not sure I trust the sea at Southend- very manky looking, also relies on public transport as CBC woudln't take me.
    The float is a great idea though!

    1. Thanks Kezzie for touching base again! I've been over-run this summer and have gotten out of the routine of contacting my blogging friends. In two weeks time I'll be on holiday at home and will pick things up again. In the meantime, I have to say that I'd not be keen to swim in water that didn't look clean - goodness knows what you could catch :(

  6. Hello lovely lady! I'm delighted to have a silent reader come forward and make contact, thank you! Not sure I have a recommendation for that though, sorry x

  7. Lovely post, thanks for sharing this!, totally inspiring!
    Happy belated anniversary!


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