Friday, April 10, 2020

Going for a Swim

Over the years, I’ve noted how the swimming pool at the local leisure center comes up short when compared to my memories of swimming in the creek, and how what adventurous locals refer to as “Wild Swimming” is what I simply call swimming. I therefore thought it only right that I should chronicle my recent introduction to al fresco swimming.

It started with a notice in Next Door—the local on-line community forum—when a guy named Ady asked if anyone was up for a Cold-Water swim. Due to the aforementioned reasons, I thought I owed it to myself to give it a go.

And so, on a crisp October morning, I drove the short distance to Southwater Park and met Ady at the lake shore. Turns out I was the only one insane enough to take him up on the offer. Ady was undaunted, however, and pleased to have at least one person to share his passion with. Without fanfare, or preparation time (although what I might have done to prepare myself, I cannot say) we walked into the still, silent water where mist was rising in early light.

In the lake, smiling despite the numbness.
It was freezing. But I persevered, submerged myself up to my shoulders and, after a few seconds of hyperventilating, it began to feel normal. Invigorating, even.

We swam back and forth across the lake a few times while Ady extolled the virtues of Cold Water swimming and I luxuriated in the sensation of, once again, swimming in open water. It really was quite pleasant.

Then we got out.

My feet and hands were so numb I couldn’t feel them, and my fingers were so stiff I found it impossible to button my shirt. It was even difficult to insert the key in the ignition and driving home was a little dodgy. Fortunately, there were few cars on the road.

I had promised to contact Ady when I returned from my trip to America so we could do it again, but here it is, nearly ten weeks later, and I haven’t yet made the call. Here’s why:

First and foremost, despite how pleasant it was, it’s another thing, and I don’t have room in my life for another thing. I know it would just be a one-morning-a-week outing, but I’m already getting up extra early to swim at the leisure center on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, there’s Choir, Thursday, it’s Tai Chi, Friday, we shop, and in between is another choir, the AmDram group, a book club and various other social obligations.

And I know me. If I took up outdoor swimming, I’d put 110% into it, and soon I’d be traveling to other sites, taking up even more time. Then there’s the kit. I’d want a set of activewear that would be easier to get on and off, and neoprene booties to make walking on the beach and lake bottom easier, and neoprene gloves to keep my hands warm, and maybe one of those fluffy, terrycloth robes to help stave off frostbite.

In short, it would take over the little bit of my life that I have left.

Secondly, there’s Ady’s intentions. It was significant that he termed it “Cold Water Swimming.” Addy wasn’t interest in open water, he was interested in cold water, the colder, the better. He was, he informed me, a practitioner of the Wim Hof method, and that calls for extreme cold-water challenges.

Mr. Hof is from the Netherlands and is known for his ability to withstand freezing temperature, as well as for holding the record for the barefoot half-marathon through snow and ice. (Did he really have that many other people to compete with?”)

Ady extolled the virtues of the WimHof method, and, while I don’t disagree with him (I have read that cold-water swimming is good for your immune system and yadda, yadda, yadda) I’m in no hurry to travel anywhere that is covered in snow and ice just so I can run half-naked through it.

So, I’m sorry I didn’t call you back, Ady, it’s just that I’m kinda busy and, although I had a great time at the lake, I’m in no hurry to freeze my balls off. I just want to go swimming.

Swimming, for real. Finally.

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