Always a great exercise that’s totally free if you live by the sea.
I’m not one of those people who like swimming pools. Too many people, too smelly, too expensive and totally not environmentally friendly with all the electric/gas they use.
And before you say that you can’t swim, up until 2014 i couldn’t either. But a friend of mine lent me a wetsuit and assured me that i couldn’t sink with a wetsuit on and off i went into the sea with a big inflatable rubber ring to hold onto for reassurance. I totally loved it.
I loved it so much that that summer i bought my own wetsuit, fins, mask and snorkel and took the plunge in the sea early one morning when no one was about so i didn’t feel too much of an idiot (and no, i didn’t take a big inflatable ring with me 😀 ).
There’s some great ‘how to’ swimming videos on youtube that’ll teach you all you need to know in how to move in the water while you allow the wetsuit to keep you afloat. It’s a great fun way to learn how to swim.
Things to note…
1… only go in the sea when the sea is nice and calm until you become a stronger more confident swimmer. If you haven’t been sea swimming before it can be quite daunting, but if a total novice swimmer like me can handle it then i’m sure most people can.
2… make sure you have a good wetsuit (5mm and thicker) for buoyancy if you aren’t a strong swimmer. The beauty of this is that you can just stop whenever you feel tired and you will float, and as you aren’t generating a lot of internal body heat from hard swimming you won’t get hypothermia floating around while you rest. The sea can kill you very easily through hypothermia. Water, even at 17C can feel ok at first but once you start to tire out it can soon strip away your body heat and if you’ve ever had to deal with a hypothermic person you’ll know that you don’t want to get in that state ever, especially in the sea. So if you are just beginning to swim in the sea, be safe and put a wetsuit on. Ignore smart arsed idiots like Jenny Landreth of Swimming London who feel the need to belittle those of us who wear wetsuits to go in the sea. Too many people have drowned not wearing wetsuits that would otherwise have lived had they been. Take Kate Rew from Outdoor Swimming’s advice in the same article and be comfortable and safe using it as a stepping stone and enjoy a warm safe experience until you feel brave (mad) enough to do it in speedos.
3… a mask and snorkel make a lot of difference as you get to see all the fishies and crabs and jellyfish that you’re swimming with. It makes the whole thing a very enjoyable experience as you can just float along on your front with your face looking down while still breathing through the snorkel while practising your swimming strokes.
4… be aware of tides and currents where you swim. Stick to designated swimming areas until you’re a really good confident swimmer.
5… fins can seem to make things easier but they do tire your legs out very quickly if you’re not used to them, so don’t go thinking you can swim out further with fins because you could be in for a shock when your legs totally give up. Stick to the same distances as you would without fins until you gain more confidence with the fins and your legs get strong enough to power them.
6… take it a step at a time. You are allowed to swim up and down 10 metres from the shore. Don’t swim out further than you feel absolutely confident that you can swim back from – see note 4.
7… make sure you’re fit before you attempt this. If you can’t walk down the beach without tiring then i really don’t suggest that you go swimming in the sea as walking down the beach is far easier. I even find running down the beach far easier than swimming in the sea.
8… never go swimming if your muscles are feeling tired. Only go when you feel fully fresh and up to the task and likewise, get out and quit for the day when you do start to feel tired. It’s easy and safe to sack out on a run or doing yoga, you can just sit down and no harm is done, but if you sack out in the sea you are fucked!!!
9… always, always, remember that the sea can kill you very easily. If you have a friend who is a confident swimmer, ask them to go with you. Don’t be as crazy as me and do it alone – unless you are as crazy as me and that’s on your own head, but then at least make sure that you’re extremely fit and healthy.
Other than that, if you do take up sea swimming like i have and want to build it into an exercise routine like i have then you can split the swimming up into two disciplines. If i’m on an upper body workout day i will swim without fins and focus on using my arms for propulsion with just a small assistance from my legs when needed. If i’m on a lower body workout day i’ll put my fins on and not use my arms at all other than for steering/manoeuvring. A good pair of freediving fins will work your upper leg and hip muscles like you never would never imagine – great exercise.
Remember, do everything you can to stay safe and enjoy the experience. It really is a total pleasure to swim in the sea if you use a little thought.