Thinking about open water swimming?
Updated: Jan 18, 2022
What is Pool2lake?
Pool2lake offers professional open water coaching for adults where you can develop and achieve your goals whether they are recreational or competitive like an Ironman or long-distance swim in an environment which is encouraging, kind and friendly. We swim hard but come together as a team to celebrate successes. We really are a group of amazing swimmers. Open water is something I absolutely love and am so passionate about.
Swimrun coaching is something new which will be starting in April, which is really exciting.
How did it get started?
I had been teaching children how to swim for a while and it was time to look for another challenge. At first, I started looking at water polo because I thought it would be fun to work with teenagers. Then my friend Penny Bird, decided she was going to do 50 swims to celebrate her birthday. I was “oooo” this is sounding fun! It really is amazing how things happen and fall into place, because I then did some research on getting my open water qualifications.
What made me focus on the open water?
I am a water baby like my dad. My dad is 70 years old and still plays water polo. The water has been a big part of my life growing up. I have always swum at school and then I stopped when I was a teenager but when I moved to Connecticut for two years I met some amazing people and did some open water swimming there. I love the exhilarating feeling the water gives me. I loved meeting up with different people. I always felt so alive and happy after each swim.
The open water was also something so different and there weren’t many people doing it 4 years ago when I started.
The more and more I got into the open water I knew I wanted to share my passion with other swimmers wanting to move into the open water. The open water hasn’t always been easy so I can understand and relate to the new swimmer.
How do you prepare people mentally to transition to the open water?
A lot of people don’t believe in themselves and think the open water is unreachable. The open water should always be respected and with guidance and safety the open water experience is amazing and addictive. I think it’s so important to tell the swimmers everything that is going to happen. Remember baby steps!!! I always say don’t look at the lake as a whole, break it down into small manageable pieces. The open water will definitely challenge you mentally and physically. There are things we can control and things we can’t. Also, you’re not allowed to have an imagination when you swim!!! The preparation starts before the swim. I do lots of emails and chatting to swimmers before we even arrive at the lake. Everyone has a story and their story is important to me.
The hardest part about starting open water swimming is actually making the call or sending the email.
Weeds are a big concern for lots of new open water swimmers. I often get you to hold them and smell them so if you do get them on your hands or face you know what to expect.
Would you say there is a lot of mind over matter?
Absolutely lots of mind over matter.
The open water will challenge you mentally and physically. Most of the time we are in control of absolutely everything in our daily lives. Letting go of the control in the middle of the lake is a tough ask. We must understand that we can’t control the water temperature, colour of the water, what’s in the water.
I have had swimmers having panic attacks in the water and crying, thinking they can’t do it. We have to talk to ourselves and believe in ourselves.
The amount of pressure some people put on themselves is immense. Looking at a 1 km lake is enough to make any pool swimmer cry. It’s baby steps. You build up. You tackle the lake in small manageable pieces and before you know it you will be swimming a whole circuit.
How do you prepare people to transition to the open water?
People need to feel like they can trust you. We go through everything and break the whole open water swim into small manageable bits.
I answer lots of questions before we even get to the lake.
Taking new open water swimmers into the water for the first time is pure joy and an absolute pleasure. The swimmers arrive at the lake nervous but excited and it’s all clearly visible on their faces. After the swim, the transformation is unbelievable. No one wants to leave the lake after their swim.
The number of swimmers transitioning into the open water this season has been phenomenal. The closing of the pools in lockdown has really given the pool swimmers a push to move outdoors. There is nothing better than feeling the water on your body.
I offer pool sessions where we work on the front crawl stroke, get fit and also work on the open water techniques. There is nothing better than feeling fit and raring to go when the open water season starts. There is no easy way to get swim fit. You have to get in the water a swim.
The pool classes allow you to build fitness and fix the stroke so you swim efficiently. Also, every week you’re getting tips and advice which will help you when you transition.
In the winter months is when you do all the hard work in the pool, the rewards will be 10-fold when the season starts.
Can you swim anywhere?
I would always recommend swimmers to swim in a managed lake first. Most of the problems occur at the start of the open water season, mid-April. Swimmers have no idea how cold the water is and they don’t understand the open water acclimatising. If you have a positive transition your outdoor swimming goes from strength to strength. Whereas if you have problems, that stays with you every time you swim. You have to overcome the fear to building your confidence.
There are lots of Facebook groups you can join and the local people of the area are always keen to share their open water swim spots. It’s not wise to go and just swim in any river. The biggest risk is the cold water and understanding the currents. All open water should be respected 100%.
What age range do you cover?
The youngest open water swimmer is Martha who is 5 years old and the oldest is 80 years who only does pool swimming for now. Age doesn’t matter with open water swimming. We all have a common love. The laughter and pure joy of being in the water is exactly the same with a 5-year-old and 70-year-old. Open water definitely doesn’t have any age barriers.
What are the health benefits?
When you go into the open water you can’t think of anything else. Not your children, husband, wife or work. No phone, no computer. Everything stops. You are only thinking of the now. You get a surge of endorphins. Nowhere else gives you a clear head. Swimmers who have arthritis feel so much better after a swim, the joints are more flexible. The cold water is meant to do wonders for depression. Recently there have been studies that the cold water helps with dementia.
What requirements do you need to have to swim in open water?
You need to be able to swim and be comfortable treading water. To truly benefit from the open water, you should be able to swim 400m without stopping in the pool. You will be out of your depth when swimming in any outdoor body of water. You can swim any stroke.
Where do you hold your open water swims?
Most of my open water coaching is done at Denham Lake which is fabulous. I also coach at Merchant Taylors, Stanborough Lakes and Boxend.
When you join the pool2lake team I add you to the Swim Buddies Facebook group and a What’s App group so you can meet other swimmers to arrange swims together.