Andy is taking on the Aspire Channel Swim in open water
I decided to take on the Aspire Channel Swim for the third time this year because I'm a triathlete but - because of the Covid-19 pandemic - all of my planned events for this year have been cancelled or postponed until next year. I like to have something to aim for and when I received the email it appealed to me to get me motivated. I loved the challenge the last time I did it and I swam to France and back again within the 12 weeks.
That time I swam in a pool but this year, with things being as they are, I’m starting early and getting it done in open water before it gets too cold. I’m glad we are allowed to log our open water swims, as the event is run during the winter months and the lakes get too cold.
To be honest, I don’t even really enjoy swimming! I’m 55 but I didn't learn to swim until I was 48, and I don’t consider myself any good.
However, I do really enjoy the 'me time' swimming gives me and the fact that while I'm in the water I am not contactable by my phone or by email. I have seen a few programmes on TV lately encouraging people to participate in swimming to help with stress, and it certainly helps with mine.
During lockdown I wasn’t able to go to the pool because the leisure centre where I'm a member was closed, but I actually prefer open water swimming. I have swum in open water for the past few summers, mostly training for triathlon events. I find the wetsuit gives extra buoyancy and helps with my lack of swimming confidence. When I got back in the water again it felt cold! I hadn't swum since last September, when I did a Half Ironman Triathlon.
For those taking on the Aspire Channel Swim for the first time this year I say, most importantly enjoy yourselves; don't put yourself under too much pressure and think about the health gains for you and the opportunity to help others.
If anyone is thinking about taking on the challenge in open water because their pool is still closed, I'm not going to lie - open water swimming is really scary the first time. If you can, get an introduction course to open water swimming, a lot of lakes organise these. Buy some ear plugs - I find the moulded ones from my local chemist help as the cold water can give you earache and disorientate you when you exit the water. I’d also recommend buying a tow float in case you need to stop whilst swimming as it gives you something to hang on to. Not sure I’m really selling it, but you just have to try it and think of the lovely medal you are going to get when you finish the challenge!
With my fundraising, I usually ask my colleagues to support me and the company I work for also donate from their charity fund. I am happy to be raising money for Aspire because a friend had a spinal infection a few years ago and she ended up in a hospital at the Sheffield Spinal Injury Centre, where Aspire helped with her rehabilitation.
Currently all charities need our support, probably more than ever. This is something that inspires me to get out and swim and gives back to the people who helped my friend.