Open Water Swimming in London

Today I was swimming towards the end of a cool-down of a few hundred metres, face deep in the murky brown water, body rolling from side to side as my arms gently glided through the water and the sun shone overhead. And all I was thinking about was just how far I’d come over the course of one summer.

ham lake

Back in May this year I attended my first open water swim session with RG Active at Stoke Newington reservoir. I’d swum in a lake twice before then, neither time had I managed to swim any distance front crawl and I had actively hated it and disliked swimming. I was butterflies-in-the-tummy nervous and spent the whole time before getting into the water and as I got into the water giggling nervously and constantly saying how bad I was at swimming (just in case anyone got the impression I was an expert!). The weather was freezing and we spent little more than half an hour in the water – I was exhausted when we got out! I only had one swim speed and so couldn’t ‘sprint’ even the 20m length that we were being asked to. But my confidence was hugely boosted when the coach, Phil, used me as an example for a good streamlined body position in the water!

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I went back the next weekend and a love of open water swimming was born. That little boost of confidence was all I needed to keep going, keep trying, keep doing sessions in the pool. I looked forward to open water swimming and hugely enjoyed it – important when you have to make yourself get up at half 6 on a Saturday morning to get there!

The session today involved over an hour of sprints, longer threshold efforts, drills, and gentle loops of the park. Just a few months ago I wouldn’t be able to do one of those sprints, let alone three in a row, heart pounding, swimming over other swimmers (sorry!) in an attempt to be at the front of the pack.

orgon lake

I have no idea how fast I’ll be on the 7th September but most important things to come from this year training isn’t how fast I swim 1500m, but that I can swim it in the first place, and that I can enjoy doing so! That is a huge leap in ability and confidence for me and I really, really think the RG Active sessions have been instrumental in that.

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Open water swimming isn’t just pool swimming in a lake, especially if you are wearing a wetsuit there are various things that you have to do differently and you also have to sight to see where you’re going. RG Active sessions are full of advice on using your wetsuit to its full potential, lots of advice and practice on sighting and swimming in a group. I have been swum over, kicked, hit, got agonising cramp….. and come up after it all with a smile thinking “well at least now I know what it’s like for race day!” Plus just spending time in a lake will build up your confidence for open water and you will be better off probably than half your field on race day!

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So in case you haven’t gathered… I am really recommending swim sessions with RG Active. They take place on Saturday mornings throughout the summer, at Stoke Newington Reservoir in north London and at Ham Lake just outside Richmond Park. Ham Lake also has sessions on a Sunday morning – these aren’t coached and I haven’t been to one but would be a great opportunity to practice swimming at distance. It is one of my absolute favourite triathlon training sessions.

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