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Baby it's cold outside!

It's been a wierd quick few months! Now winter is truly upon us I thought it time to get back to my blog, at least to document my very first winter swimming!

Me embracing the cold grey north sea!

I have been looking forward to swimming through the winter since I started back in March. My first ever swim goal was to do a "boxing day dip" as I'd always thought jumping into the sea in December looked like such fun.I adore Christmas, so having another crazy tradition was totally up my alley. Since I started my swim journey I realised that a boxing day dip isn't quite what I thought it was. And now having read about them and seen pictures and reviews of them I don't think it will be as much of a "challenge" for me as I thought it would be!

Not that I'm saying that I'm a seasoned cold water swimmer now, and a dip in the middle of December is so pedestrian! I think that I

definitely have more of an affinity with cold weather than hot. I've always preferred being cold, (you'd never find me lazing on the beach on holiday, I'd be in a cafe or in the sea) and my additional fat is definitely helping me stay warm during the colder months. And I tell you what, its blooming cold in the sea at the moment! Where I swim the North Sea is around 5-7°C at the moment. Technically anything under 5°C is "ice swimming" so that's pretty chilly!

The cold water is what really intrigues me about outdoor swimming. I follow the indomitable Gilly McArthur on social media (@gillymcarthur on Instagram) and shes one of my biggest watery heroes. Her adventures in ice covered lakes are fantastic to see and her enthusiasm is infectious. Seeing pictures of her hack into the ice with an axe, wearing just a bobble hat and a swimsuit, before plunging into the murky channel she's created, are just grin inducing! I aspire to be that courageous one day.

If you check out Gilly you will notice that she's very slim and athletic, a very different body shape to me. I've lost count of the amount of times my fellow swimmers have said to me, post swim through chattering teeth, "why aren't you shivering?" (Normally with some swear words in there too!) Like Gilly, I'm sensible in the water, I listen to my body, and watch the clock, and don't stay in for too long. I always make sure I have a hot drink and warm clothes after the swim (and normally a sausage sarnie!) and jiggle around to keep the blood flowing. However, the truth is, I don't know why I dont shiver. I just don't feel that cold. I can spend the same amount of time in the water as anyone else, normally doing far less swimming (I get so distracted by birds, waves, clouds, sunrises etc) but when we get out I'm happily sitting in the cafe in just a jumper and they are huddling by the fire in two dry robes shaking so badly they can't hold their coffee.

At the moment, when I am in the water I do feel stinging pain in my hands and feet. After a while my left hand does cramp up into what we affectionately call "the claw" and I pretty much can't move two of my fingers any more. Then I know it's time to go back to shore. When I then touch the bottom on the sand my toes feel like they are treading on broken shells, even though its flat sand. This can continue as I walk back io the beach, especially if there's a frost on the ground. Two weeks ago it was so painful it was like broken glass, so I resorted to wearing booties for a while. The feeling quickly comes back to my hands, and my feet go numb for about an hour (which makes putting on socks a challenge!). Sometimes my thighs and bum feel cold when I'm sitting down having my coffee, but a quick rub against the radiator fixes that! And that's it, that's all the cold feelings I have from outdoor swimming. I don't know whether it's my fat proportions or my metabolism (or maybe I'm part seal) but I feel like cold water swimming was what I was made to do.

Me and fellow #seawitch Kash believe that wooly hats are life.

So, unlike lots of people I know, I'm really looking forward to the temperature dropping even more. Every day I hope the sea gets that little bit colder, just to see how I will fair. So now my new swim challenge is to someday, oneday, complete an ice mile. If you'd like to read up on what this is, the amazing Outdoor Swimming Society have some info here: https://www.outdoorswimmingsociety.com/the-ice-mile/

Another challenge that I'm embarking on this year is to swim in new places. I adore the security and reliability (to an extent) of Tynemouth, but long for adventure. So I'm arranging some swim adventures in 2020 that will take me to rivers, lakes and waterfalls! So keep your eyes peeled for special #seawitches2020 blog posts!

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