At the beginning of November as the 2nd national lockdown for England was announced I embarked on a challenge to dip in outdoor water on each of the 30 days of November. Lots of people do these kind of challenges, often in December or January but as I explained in my starting blog here, November seems like a bit of a neglected month on the event front. People often use dip a day’s as a great way to raise money for charity too. But that wasn’t my motive on this, what I really wanted to do was make myself and other people smile or laugh every day in what otherwise was another pretty grim month for 2020.
My aim was simply to dip. I didn’t have to completely submerge my body and swim in cold water everyday, feet only dips would do. I’ve attempted such challenges before but often ended up making myself ill. By giving myself the lee-way to only dip my feet if that’s all I felt like, I gave my body the opportunity to recover properly from the cold. For all the claims of amazing things cold water immersion does for your body and mind it’s also a taxing pass time for your body. Like any activity, if you overdo it beyond what your body can cope with there will be repercussions. I’ve learned that the hard way.
So what did I get up to in my thirty days?
As you can see from my statistically questionable chart I packed in fair bit of variety.
I swam in reservoirs, rivers, streams, waterfalls and a quarry. All in close proximity to my home.
I swam with a few lovely people, helping to stave off some of the loneliness that many feel during a lockdown (don’t worry I stayed within the rules) but it was mostly the loyal Short One by my side, clocking up twelve swims on my quest.
I swam solo four times. What? You swim alone? Yup, sometimes I do, for lots of reasons. Many people claim it’s not safe to swim alone but I’m an experienced outdoor swimmer and that experience combining learning how to risk assess well has made it possible for me.
I swam in full, head to toe, only my nose and mouth exposed, neoprene ten times. I swam in just a swimming costume twelve times and I skinny dipped six times.
Why the variety of attire? Because I love all of it. I love the feel of the cold winter water on my skin, the tingling, the knifeyness, a bit of numbness. The true exhilarating ZING of cold water. Equally I love having a long, limb stretching swim over winter. They’re becoming an even more regular feature than usual this winter due to either pool closures or very limited pool access too.
I saw the sunrise seven times and I swam in complete darkness five times. It’s sometimes hard to squeeze swims in when it’s daylight over winter so at times you’ve just gotta do what you’ve gotta do. And well, watching the sunrise from the water is pretty magical, as is bobbing around with stars overhead.
One day I just didn’t feel like leaving the house so I squeezed as much of myself as I could into the kids old paddling pool. Shortly after that I upgraded to an old bath and dunked in that twice. I’ve wanted a garden bath for a while, thanks lockdown #2 for making me get round to sourcing one.
And finally I put only my feet in the water on four days of November. Some days it was all I wanted. But it made me smile and the cold water on my feet still sent a lovely sensation through my body. It calmed my mind to sit still and just feel what was going on in my feet for a couple of minutes and ignore the rest of the world around me.
If you’ve done any adding up along the way you’ll notice there were also a few days where I dipped more than once.
Everyday I shared a picture or two of my dip on social media. In the time of remoteness that was lockdown #2 it forced me to interact. Somedays I didn’t feel like sharing, but I always felt better afterwards knowing that I’d made someone smile or chuckle. As the month went on a few people commented that they looked forward to seeing whatever silliness I’d got up to each day. It was lovely to be able to connect with people albeit not in person.
I listened and reacted to what my body felt like doing throughout and as a result I didn’t get poorly this time. Everyone is different, the way they deal with the cold is different, the way they recover is different so it was only me that could call this and I’m pleased I finally listened properly and took my own advice. It made the experience all the more enjoyable.
So will I do it again? Maybe, when the time’s right, but for now I’ll keep swimming when I can and continue with the odd foot dip when I still want a shot of cool winter waters.
p.s. pie chart care of husband. He looked over my shoulder whilst I was writing and excitedly said “oooh, numbers, you could do a graphical representation” we settled on pie. Pie is good.