Swimming in a pool can be noisy and distracting. Other people thrashing around, kids having fun, lifeguard whistles. They all echo and reverberate around a hard surfaced pool hall.
Outside, nature absorbs some of the noises but also opens up a whole new world of sound. The waters surface adds a new element too. Sound bounces off it and travels much further than you expect. Word of warning here – if you’re at an organised open water swimming session having a gossip with a mate there’s a high chance the person sat in a safety boat 100m away keeping an eye on you might be able to hear every word 😉
Over summer the sounds still might be children having fun, people chatting by the water side. There might be birds, or traffic or the occasional sheep bleating. But whatever noise there is is always dispersed and absorbed by the expanse of nature.
Winter is generally quieter than the summer. Less people around, cloudier skies, fewer birds. Still, snowy days muffle sound leaving you feeling like you’re swimming in a soundproof box where all you can hear is your own breathing. Rainy, stormy days whistle past your head, creating heavy plops on the water.
When we swim in the dark we’re regularly met by the unexpected dirty laughter of ducks, the squawks of terns or the prehistoric shriek of the resident herons. There’s the occasional good morning from the runners as they plod past with their headtorch. A happy shout of “are you mad” or some other such incredulity from a sensible person walking past, rather more sensibly dressed than us.
Then there’s the sounds we make as we swim. The shrieks, whoops, huffing, swearing. All a part of the getting in process. Occasionally some chattering teeth afterwards. Best of all though is the laughter.
Laughing at our own stupidity for willingly getting this cold. Laughing at our inability to get dressed or unlock our cars when our hands are numb. Laughing when we fall over putting our boots on because the cold does weird things to our balance.
The rush of endorphins caused by the shock of cold water makes it so much easier to laugh, to take yourself less seriously, to relax into the moment. Google the “benefits of laughter” and you’ll find endless articles supporting the benefits of laughter from reducing stress levels to increasing lifespan. It benefits our mental and physical health immeasurably.
So, I shall carry on hooting, shrieking and laughing for as long as I can!