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Featured: A Guide to Sea Swim Training

- by Pauline Barker, Founder of Devon & Cornwall Wild Swimming

The one mile swim was my first sea swimming event back in 2010. It was (and continues to be) a fantastic event and really got me hooked. Shortly after I founded Devon and Cornwall Wild Swimming with the intention of finding other like-minded swimmers, and the group is now more than 3000 strong.

I have also pushed my own swimming boundaries and have gone on to swim The English Channel 3 times as part of relay teams as well as completing a solo 21 mile 2 way swim of Lake Windermere as part of my training for a solo swim across The English Channel in July this year.  I am also an ice swimmer and this year became the only woman in the world to have swum 3 Ice Miles as well as winning the marathon winter swimming event in Estonia by completing 1200 metres in sub 2 degree water.

I simply love to swim and encourage others to get in the water so I hope that this guide will make your swim experience more enjoyable.

  1. The first thing to remember is the obvious - it will be cold and wet - and one mile is the equivalent of 64 lengths of your local 25 metre pool so it will certainly help your confidence if you can get that distance under your belt in the pool before the big day.
  2. The cold can catch you by surprise as even on a warm sunny day the water temperature is going to be about 16 degrees which will be cold enough to make you catch your breath if you're not used to it. The best way to prepare is to get into the sea 2 or 3 times a week if you can as this will get you accustomed to the temperature and you will also get a feel for the bounciness of the waves and the effect of the different buoyancy that swimming in salt water makes to your swimming position.
  3. Because you're swimming in the sea you may find that your skin will chafe as the salt can be quite abrasive especially around your neck. If you apply Vaseline to areas prone to chafing before a swim this helps to prevent the rubbing and soreness. If your goggles are likely to fog up then make sure they are clean the night before, and then a little bit of old fashioned spit rubbed into the lenses just before you swim then rinsed out can prevent this.
  4. Some people find it easy to plunge into the sea and start swimming straight away but I'm more of a gradual immerser.  The entry into the sea from Broadsands is shelving and sandy so I'd recommend you walk steadily in until the water reaches just above your waist and then quickly dunk the rest of you in up to your neck. Give yourself a few seconds to let your breathing relax, a few strokes of breast stroke will get you going, and then it's head in the water and off you go.
  5. Front crawl is usually the fastest stroke and if you can practise breathing to both sides then that will help avoid taking too many mouthfuls of water as you can breathe to whichever side the water is calmest. However if you prefer to swim breast stroke all the way that gives you the advantage of being able to see where you're going and enjoy the view.
  6. There's likely to be a bit if a mêlée at the start as everyone is keen to get going and there will probably be a bit of jostling for position by the faster swimmers so if you're more of a casual swimmer then find your own space and settle into your own swim.
  7. One last bit of advice - don't worry about what everyone else is doing or whether you're first or last because it really doesn't matter as long as you finish safely and are enjoying yourself!

If you would like to become involved in this year's one mile swim then you can find out more about it, or enter online here: 

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