Friday, 9 November 2012

How the Other Half lives - Doing it outdoors


I seem to be becoming redundant on my own blog.

What with all Ruby's crafting, story writing and now her song and dance routine featuring on the Britmums round-up... The Other Half wants to get in on the act now and write a guest post.  

Surely it won't be long before the dog is upstaging me...

Anyway, it's all good.  I reckon I can get the whole family trained up to keep things ticking over here while the new series of I'm a Celebrity is on.

Before I hand over the reins to the Old Man, his suggestion for a post struck me as a nice idea for others to join in with.  Hopefully it will give you more of an insight to our family life, and I'm a nosey beggar - I'd love to know what your partner's obsession hobby is while you're busy reading or writing blogs, or endlessly twittering away on social media.

So, if you can persuade your other half to write a post about what makes them tick, or if you can write one on their behalf, please do link up below with 'How the Other Half Lives'.

Without further ado, I give you....the Old Man...

When I used to play regular Sunday and Saturday football there was nothing I HATED more than cold showers. I could not stand it... But it was a necessary evil that you often had to subject yourself to in exchange for 90 minutes of running, kicking and falling over (this is how my daughter describes my footy technique having seen me play once – her powers of observation and insight are sublime, unlike my skills on the field of play). 

Old father time finally caught up with me last year. After two years out I donned the boots for a final swansong season - it lasted two matches. But in all honesty after the first 5 minutes I knew that my legs, strength and most worryingly, my desire, had gone. So I hung up the boots at the grand old age of 40.



Of course the OH was delighted. Secretly I was devastated and have since been desperately seeking to fill the void. Not only for the chest-aching exhaustion from stretching every sinew in your body to breaking point, but the sense of personal triumph (and failure), the companionship and camaraderie and the feeling of freedom for 90 minutes a week. I am pleased to say I have resisted the obvious transition into golf or donning garish lycra and spending thousands on a push bike, or fast cars, or even looking for other forms of excitement :-). But my regular diet of circuit training, squash and the occasional run have left me strangely lacking. Until recently….mid life crisis I hear you say… read on and then judge for yourself.

On 13th October I joined an old mate who’d organised the inaugural ‘The Swimmer experience. Pitched as a gentle meander through London’s ponds, lidos and parks - it is in fact a half marathon with a difference. Was this the mid life crisis kicking in? I am not sure, but the attraction for me was to do something different - once - have a run through London and get the opportunity to go for a dip in the Serpentine, something I was unlikely to ever repeat again. 

Epiphany may be too strong a term, but something happened during our journey on 13th October….

I met my fellow intrepid explorers at 07:00 at Hampstead station (yes 07:00, and yes it was the weekend, and yes its 30 miles and a one hour drive to get there). I was so excited about the adventure, but it was short-lived and soon replaced by a totally different sensation! My first experience of cold water swimming was plunging into the icy waters at Parliament Hill. Even though I am told it was a veritably barmy 14 degrees, I thought I was literally going to die when I jumped in the water.



Unfortunately (for me), my ‘mentor’ gave no pre warning of what I could expect. Luckily, advice does exist  and he has retrospectively made amends, so that other cold water ‘virgins’ don’t repeat my school boy errors.

It is difficult to articulate quite what that first moment felt like, when I struggled to breathe in or out and I thought my heart had stopped. But it soon dissipated and I managed to complete a couple of lengths of the pool.

After a gentle 5 mile run to Hyde Park (what a glorious sight the streets of north London are at this time of the morning) we took a dip in the Serpentine courtesy of their swimming club
, who kindly welcomed us as guests for the day. It felt colder again, but swimming in the Serp alongside my fellow Swimmers, and a swan or two, was an invigorating experience.


Next stop Tooting Bec! The final leg of the journey was somewhat more arduous, with our numbers dwindling, conversation drying up, and the mean streets of south London taking their toll on my ankles and knees. Never has Tooting Common been such a welcome sight, with the lido tucked away alongside the South London railway line as it snakes its way through the suburbs. The pool itself is a monster, looking 12,000m long rather than 120m and feeling like it was -120 degrees... I was too cold and too tired for a proper swim, but I had a little paddle and next time I am determined to do a length… did I say ‘next time’?

I certainly did. Tomorrow (November 10th) is The Swimmer 2, when it will be colder and harder no doubt.

So I have been 'training', or at least seeking out places to swim. In a recent visit to County Cork I took the plunge at Lough Abisdealy and Lough Hyne (perhaps where the epiphany really happened) and have since been scouring Google Earth for the local spots for some wild swimming. The wilder and colder the better.





I was blown away by the sense of community evident at the Tooting Bec lido and the welcoming nature of the cold water swimming movement that I never knew existed. The Outdoor Swimming Society has over 9,000 members each one with a passion for this way of life and willing and able to give friendly and useful advice.

In short I am hooked. Tomorrow will be the latest step in my cold water journey. This time 20 of us, of all abilities and motivations, and we will experience another of London's great lidos at Brockwell, with the promise of tea and cake at the end!

This is no mid life crisis, but it has been life-changing for me. If you too want to feel A-L-I-V-E, try cold water swimming. Adrenalin, exercise, endorphins, companionship, adventure all available at a lido, lake, river, pond, sea front near you... You would be mad not to try and I promise you won't be disappointed



Please do join in and link back here with How the Other Half Lives...

30 comments:

  1. He's mad, he's actually mad! I remember watching Gavin Henson swimming in the freezing water in that 40 degrees north thingy and I was impressed, but to do it for fun?!

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    1. Haha - I can't say it's my idea of fun either, but it seems to keep him out of mischief. x

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  2. The thought of jumping in freezing water makes me want to wrap up warmer. I freeze in swimming pools so in actual cold water I fear I may seize up & sink to the bottom of that cold water.
    Well done for enjoying cold water, I shall stick to just drinking it.

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  3. a huge well done to you. standing joke in our house that hubby would take a cab to the end of the drive to get to the car if he could.
    Welcome to the blog and look forward to reading more

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    1. Me too Elaine!! I have a severe allergy to exercise.

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  4. Congratulations to your OH, I think he is very brave :), not sure I could do that x

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    1. Brave? You mean off his rocker right?

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  5. I swam in the Serpetine once, ir was quite disgusting... Having said that I totally get how you could get hooked. Love swimming, love outdoor swimming, love London. (She says sitting on the couch eating chocolate).

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    1. Haha Maggy!

      I think not just the cold it's the foreign objects and wiggly fish that put me off...

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  6. TheBoyandMe you spelt mad wrong it's f-i-t ! ;)

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    1. I bet you say that to any boy who buys you ice cream...

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    2. ooo ice cream is there ice cream?!

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  7. He is indeed very brave/barking, Love the idea of wild swimming ....but in the freezing cold .... I don't think so. I have linked with my OH's slightly less extreme pastime. :)

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    1. It did look amazing when he was swimming in the lake with the scenery behind...but FREEZING!!!

      Thanks for linking up, off to look now, x

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  8. You crazy fella !!1 Good for you thought how exciting i have a fab vbook called wild swimming which tells youplaces allover the country where you can swim in the iwld,Its rather fab. good luck tomorrow!

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    1. Hi Becky! We have that book! In fact, I think I won it from your blog competition ages ago. It's been dug back out ;0)

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  9. Great post! Tooting and Brockwell are my old stomping ground ( not that I am feeling nostalgic enough to want to go back to Sarf Lahndahn after living and working there for the last12 years or so. Exmouth Beach Christmas Day around 100 swimmers go I. The sea. It's tradition apparently! Would be right up your street x

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    1. Hi!

      He actually wants to organise a Christmas Day swim, but I'm not having that! Christmas Day is family time, he can do Boxing Day!! x

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  10. How wonderful to see those waters in london reclaimed from the ducks! I cant imagine swimming in the local river where i grew up in the uk for fear of pollution and shopping trolleys never mind the cold, but here in new zealand most people swim in rivers, lakes and the seas-even me, and as a kayaking family it has been known to happen in winter, but only by accident of course! I think your 'how the other half lives' meme is facinating and i shall endeavour to rope in my pottery collecting bloke into the game x

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    1. Wow, kayaking in NZ sounds fabulous.

      I'd love to see your How the Other Half Live post. x

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  11. Madness. But sounds like he is having a lovely time. Actually interesting that these Lidos etc exist still- that in itself is nice to know! Good luck with the new hobby!

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    1. I'm with you Sonya - madness!!

      But it's keeping him out of trouble ;0)

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  12. Oh my goodness, what the devil is this madness! Is it a boy thing? I kinda get the invigorating side to it, but BLIMEY! Great post though, Mr Me and my Shadow xx

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    1. Haha definitely a boy thing I think!

      We shall forevermore be driving around looking for potential lakes...

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  13. Love this post, it starts off quite emotional but I love that he's turned it around and found a new outlet. Trying to pin my Mr down to writing something as he read it and I could tell there was muchos empathy there, remains to be seen if he'll put fingers to keyboard though! x

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    1. I'd love to read your Mr's post! Get him on it. x

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  14. Great concept. Your fella can write engagingly too. Have always wondered why folks subject to themselves to this and now feel I have more of an idea why they do. Blogging is warmer though!

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  15. OMG, cold is bad! Warm is good!
    Loving that your family is taking over the blog ... free labour for a new age! :-)

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  16. I felt cold just reading this! I loved reading this post, fascinated by the thought of a 120m long pool. Congratulations to your husband, and I think it's great that he guest posted for you!

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