This summer and autumn I’ve developed a new habit: sea swimming once or twice a week regardless of temperature and weather. Looking back, I can’t bear to think of all the years when I swam almost exclusively in hot weather.
Or didn’t swim. Because I walk, you see, and it’s almost two kilometers to the nearest beach, and on a hot day the delicious swim-experience has been burnt off me by the time I sweat my way back home. So swimming, though still gorgeous, became a random experience that usually happened only when some kind friend picked me up in their car.
This year the weather in Wellington has been all-or-nothing. Mainly glorious calm, warm days with occasional tempestuous and sometimes terrifying rain and gales. Early morning is the best time for swimming at Freyberg Beach and I’ve been loving it.
You may know of other old people who swim (almost) all year round in the sea or a river or lake. It always seems odd to me (although it shouldn’t) when people remark, “Oh you’re good!” or “You’re brave.” They shudder at the thought of cold water swimming. I try to tell them that we swim because we love it, not to be virtuous or brave. But it’s hard to understand until you do it regularly, rather than once or twice a year.
An article in The Guardian helped me to understand why our subjective experiences of cold water swimming are so vastly different: torture (for non-swimmers) or a treat (for those who indulge frequently). There’s quite a logical explanation, and it even explains why cold water swimming (after your sixth time) trains your body and mind to react much more calmly to situations that previously caused anxiety.
I went wild swimming and haven’t had a panic attack since.Tim Clare, The Guardian, 23 May 2022
So if this delicious, sensuous, mind-healing habit appeals to you—don’t judge it by your first scary experiences. After six 3-minute swims (not on the same day!) you may become acclimatised to cold water swimming. You may be addicted. And you may have dealt your over-cranked anxiety a mortal blow.Follow Write Into Life