Floating and Feeling Fine

By Keely Mills- Poet in residence at Peterborough Lido

The wellness of outdoor swimming is becoming the new set of ‘buzzwords’. 

People are latching onto the idea that the much wilder and out of comfort zone type of swims are having a very positive effect on those, that do them regularly.  It makes sense, swimming is an excellent exercise, it always comes out on top as the best for all reasons, such as good for cardio and muscles.  If you have restricted mobility on the land, in the pool you will be able to do more. 

If you want to get away from it all and have time in your own head then very little will bother you when you are doing those laps. But do all of this in colder water?

There are some who think you must be crazy to want to plunge yourself into a pool or a body of water that is not bathwater warm but they have never felt that rush which you get when you push your body that little bit further.  According to science, there are numerous reasons as to why cold water swimming is best, from it boosting your metabolism, building mental fortitude to boosting your libido! 

 I still don’t know what hooks you in and suddenly makes you a wild swim or an outdoor swim fan but I know for me it’s the sense of pride I have when I push myself to do something that many others  would not even try and then it’s the overwhelming sense of connection you have to the outdoors and nature that makes you feel grounded to the place, day and season you are in. A precious, mindful and often wet moment that can’t be beaten. The first time I swam in Peterborough Lido, I was completely sold on these feelings and have never looked back and so recently, when I was commissioned by BBC Radio Cambridgeshire to create a set of radio programmes and it had to be about a place and community I loved, it had to be about Peterborough Lido.

In the programmes, I am talking about the history of the Lido, how it works and so on. But, I had to explore this idea of well being,  I often find that I hark back to the outdoor swimmer’s bible, ‘Waterlog’ and its writer, Roger Deakin, he writes about how the real world is left on the bank or poolside and how he always felt better for a swim. 

When you enter the water, something, like a metamorphosis happens. Leaving behind the land, you go through the looking glass surface and enter a new world in which survival, not ambition or desire, is the dominant aim.” Roger Deakin, Waterlog

Like Deakin, if I have a problem or need a break from life and its ongoing stresses, I grab my swimsuit and after whatever swim I managed to do, I either feel better, or I have solved the problem or I am so relaxed that the real world has to work around me. 

I often hear a lot of the regular Lido swimmers talk about this incredible sense of well being that they get and how it has become so central to their lives and as part of the radio programme which I am calling, Loving the Lido, I wanted to interview Ella Foote, Ella is a freelance writer, journalist and an outdoor swimming ambassador and she regularly writes for the Outdoor Swimming magazine and has a huge following on social media and she has just qualified as an Outdoor Lifeguard! I discovered Ella on Instagram and she is also a plus-size goddess, every time I saw her latest posts about a river or a sea swim, by proxy I always felt better and empowered. 

So, like the brazen poet I am, I asked her to be interviewed as part of the programme and she agreed! 

Ella had lived very briefly near Peterborough but had never visited the Lido, so first things first, as soon as she arrived for her interview we got in the pool and swam. Ella was incredibly impressed by the lido and with the rain beating down, the steam coming off the pool, it could not have been more beautiful. 

Ella talked about the expectation of what a swim holds, the incredible zing as she puts it when she gets in and then a cleansing that takes over. It meant allot to speak to someone who really lived by the weird yet almost spiritual rituals of outdoor swimming and could speak so eloquently about the sentiments I already felt. On our third lap, Ella brought me back to probably the crucible of the wellbeing of swimming, It’s the other swimmers, She says, ‘you become part of a community, where others make you feel welcome, they encourage you to do your best and they share that love, which is priceless’.  She is so right, it hit me like a  wave but it’s the chats mid-swim, or the hello in the morning and the hot chocolate with a smile that makes it all the more worth it. Whatever the reason it is that makes you reach for a towel or goggles and head to the lido in the rain, all I know it’s worth writing poems about, telling people about and I could not live without it. 

Keely and Ella at Peterborough Lido

 To listen to that interview, please tune in from September the 19th at 7pm and its BBC radio Cambridgeshire on 95.7 fm or 96 fm. To find out more about Ella, please follow her on Twitter or Instagram at @ellachloeswims 

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