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Health and happiness

Words by Megan Searle

After a winter of take-your-breath-away swims in an icy-cold sea, a cooling swim in the Jubilee Pool on a hot summer’s morning was just the tonic.

As 7:30am approached, the heat continued to rise, myself and a friend made our way to the idyllic white gates of the lido. Greeted with ear-to-ear smiles from those inside, we picked up our bag of goodies and headed straight for the water. The glassy blue tone, inviting.

Before we arrived, a picture of tranquillity

Before I dip my toe in, let me take you back to a year ago. The heat the same, but the state of the country, the world in fact, very different. Locked down, hot, filled with worry. As a country we waited with bated breath for what might come in our future. Donning masks, travel-sized sanitiser and furrowed brows – we hibernated in our homes, cleaning, organising, decorating, journaling, binging TV shows, popping out for our daily walk; trying to keep busy – anything to distract from our yearn to be with loved ones, to embrace in a hug, to venture further than an hour’s walk could take us.

As someone who has grown up by the sea, it’s always been close to my heart and embedded in my soul. Even when moving away to university, I almost felt withdrawal when being away from the magnificent Cornish coast – Cornwall’s beating heart. So, when we were no longer allowed to venture too far from our homes, that familiar feeling re-emerged – the call of the sea was strong.

Then came the first lockdown lift. A joy. Although we were still to follow stricter ways of living, we were allowed to take ourselves to exercise a little bit further from home, but we were still cautious. It was only when the months drew on and winter came, as we went in and out of national and local lockdowns, and the flurries of people who had come to enjoy the sunshine had gone back into hibernation, did we feel safe to take full advantage of the luxurious clear waters in the abundance of secret beaches, coves and river spots – a dream for Cornwall’s wild swimmers. Having never taken to swimming in winter before, I myself didn’t understand the appeal. ‘Why?’ being the big question. How naive I was.

As part of a fundraiser for a mental health charity, a couple of friends and I decided to take the plunge. A cold water swim to raise funds and spread more awareness on this very important subject. From that very first swim, that was it. I was hooked. What started as a challenge very quickly turned into something that would help me overcome some of my own mental struggles that I had developed over the previous months. Cold water swimming has now become something that many like-minded people have taken to all across the Duchy, and the country, withstanding cold temperatures to press a mental ‘reset button’ when dealing with stress, heartache and times of uncertainty. Simply, when you swim outside and hit the cold water, it brings your attention to the present and the things that are immediately going on around you. You can forget everything else. In that moment, you are able to escape the everyday and just exist.

Megan and her friend, Annice, floating beneath the morning sun

For me, this new found addiction grew, and now I couldn’t imagine my life without sea in it. Having gone from daily swims in biting water, the milder temperatures of the summer months felt like such a welcomed treat. So, when we were invited to the Rude Health Summer Soaker Event, in celebration of the end of the third national lockdown, I jumped at the chance.

So there we were, at the Jubilee Pool, ready to take on the morning. Without hesitation, the pool was the first thing on our agenda. The sea water looked so still, protected within the safe walls of the pool. It almost felt like we shouldn’t get in, should we disturb the still glassiness. It would be like putting a footprint on a fresh blanket of snow. But, we couldn’t refrain, and just like that, we were in. The mild water welcoming after it had gently been warmed by a week of hot sun.

Sun, sea and laughter

As we began to swim up and down the lengths of the cool pool, we noticed beach balls, lots of beach balls, in pink, orange and yellow – how could we resist? Like the many others who had now made their way into the cool waters of the pool, we began to hit the colourful inflatable balls to one another. The pool quickly filled with laughter and shrieks from those playing. These really were welcoming sounds to hear. Sun, sea and laughter. A cliché maybe, but after the last year and a half, to me, they were joyous sounds indeed. Now the pool was abuzz with activity. Swimming, playing, and diving. Divers donned bright orange Rude Health swimming caps and synchronised their dives. Others were drawn to the large inflatable pairs of red lips, to bob about on under the morning sun. After we had completed a few laps of the pool, and spent time playing around and floating under the morning sun, we headed to breakfast. Oh, what a treat was in store for us…

Sat on the terrace, watching the swimmers and divers below, we were presented with the most delightful breakfast of Rude Health goodies – crunchy granola, juicy berries, sweet honey and deliciously creamy coconut milk. Whilst we ate, and sipped our dairy-free coffees, we rifled through our goody bags. As well as our very own bright orange swimming caps, we were given granola, almond milk, coconut milk, banana and date bars and other yummy treats. How lucky we were!

A real treat after a cool morning swim

Tummies full, we headed over to our final activity of the morning – yoga. As most had stretched and posed early on in the morning, we were lucky enough to have an almost private class. Just three of us began the yoga session – sun now beginning to beat down on us. Maybe it was a wise decision to partake in yoga first. No fret though, we were ready to take it on.

We were led through a number of poses, some to ease us in and then some to challenge us, enabling us to focus and reflect, leaving us with a huge sense of relaxation to end our experience and begin the rest of our morning with. As well as the goody bag of surprises, we took away so much from this event. It was so heart-warming to see others able to enjoy a morning outdoors in the sunshine, enjoying the benefits of stretching, breathing, eating nutritious food and swimming in cool sea water; taking the time for themselves.

A chance to focus and reflect

There are so many incredible mental health and physical health benefits to cold water swimming in nature; improving sleep, mindfulness, confidence, metabolism and reducing stress response, as well as leaving you feeling revitalised and anew. As we head into the colder months again, why not give wild winter swimming a go? It could be the very thing that sparks that light inside of you when the dark mornings and evenings draw in – the light that will carry you through.


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