Going for a swim can be really daunting. Especially if you aren’t a naturally athletic type who lives and breathes sport of all kinds. Personal bests and the fast lane are all well and good, but you can absolutely still be a swimmer without being in it for the competition. Outdoor swimming is a great way to sidestep the stereotype that being active has to go hand in hand with misery. There’s something about dipping in rivers, lidos and the sea that helps clear your mind and wash away your worries. It can also improve your confidence in the water and lets you reconnect with the natural world around you, too. And if you’re on holiday with the sun shining, it certainly doesn’t hurt either!
Interested? Let’s take a deep, calming breath and dive into the mindfulness of outdoor swimming…
Above us only sky
Outdoor or wild swimming often refers to rivers, lakes, ponds and the sea. Not sure about sharing your swim with fish? Outdoor pools and lidos absolutely count as far as we’re concerned – if you can see the sky when you’re doing the backstroke, it’s still pretty wild to us.
Do some research about local swimming spots – there will be plenty of organised outdoor swimming venues with lifeguards on hand. Facebook groups and Instagram hashtags such as #wildswimminguk are a great source of swimming information – or swimfo – too.
Don’t fancy braving the brisk British waters? We don’t blame you. Why not dive into mindful swimming on your next beach break? We can’t think of anywhere better to dip your toe in than the warmth of the Mediterranean Sea, or even a heated hotel pool. No need to say “It’s fine when you’re in!” through chattering teeth, you can just get in and glide off. All the more time to get into your zen zone.
Some incredible swimming holiday destinations include Madeira, for gorgeous beaches and stunning lava pools; Greece, where you can take part in the historic Hellespont swim between Europe and Asia; and Dubai, where the sea is warm and clear and the marine life is breathtaking.
Focus on your breathing
Now you’ve found your ideal swim spot, you can really relax. Getting your breathing right is a big part of learning to swim; it can make the difference between a lungful of air or a mouthful of water, after all. And it’s just as important for mindful swimming.
Enter the water slowly and focus on breathing in and out. Wriggle your toes and your fingers. Notice how light you’ve become, and imagine your thoughts floating away from you, one by one. Take your time to get used to your surroundings and acknowledge every new sensation as it happens. Then set off, keeping your mind focused on your breathing. No targets, no timings, just you and the water.
Take in the view
Once you’ve swum to your heart’s content, don’t forget to take in the view. Whether you’re abroad in an infinity pool or daring to dip in the North Sea, it’s always worth lifting your head up and looking around. Bobbing about in the water gives you a completely new perspective on the world. Roger Deakin, a celebrated wild swimming enthusiast, called this “a frog’s eye view”. After your mindful swim, you might even come to see a different perspective on your thoughts and experiences too.
We recommend that you stay within designated swimming zones or on beaches with lifeguards. When you’re swimming anywhere it’s important to know your own limits, too. Never swim alone and always do your research about your chosen dipping spot. If you’re not a strong swimmer, consider improving your confidence in the pool before venturing into the great outdoors. The Outdoor Swimming Society offers lots of good advice about keeping yourself safe when swimming outdoors. The safer you are, the more mindful your swimming experience can be.
Love swimming? At On the Beach, we want everyone to feel confident in the water, check out our #AllSwimclusive campaign to find out more…