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Jacqui Hargrave on feeling 'present' and the many benefits of open water swimming

Feeling ‘present’ is exactly how author Jacqui Hargrave describes her experiences of open water swimming.

A life-long runner, Jacqui began pool swimming after suffering from numerous hip injuries caused by running, and so needed to find a low-impact form of exercise.

Her introduction to open water swimming came in May 2014 when a friend and colleague suggested they try it together.

“Pool swimming became my form of exercise when I had to give up [running]. A friend – and colleague at the time – and swim buddy suggested we try it just once. We took an ‘introduction to open water swimming’ course, and never looked back.”

A standard week for the North Yorkshire native consists of anywhere from four to eight swim sessions, split between indoor pools and a nearby lake.

At present and under current Government restrictions, Jacqui swims four times a week and describes the constantly changing environment as one of the things she loves most about the experience.

“I feel present when I’m swimming in the open water – unlike the pool where it’s pretty mechanical. As the environment is constantly changing, you need to stay sharp, focused and aware, which weirdly is relaxing and calming and one of the reasons I love it.

Jacqui also says that she prefers ‘ultra-endurance swims’, and so the freedom of the open water allows her ample time to train.

‘Confidence and awareness’

As a well experienced and avid open water swimmer, Jacqui’s advice to anyone wanting to give it a try is simple.

“I would say please, please do an introductory course. There are so many benefits, which will give you confidence, awareness and a better understanding of your environment, yourself and what to expect from it.

“That way, you’ll be less likely to have any worrying surprises of panic and enjoy it from the off.”

Jacqui’s swimming bag consists of a costume, wetsuit, a brightly coloured cap, and earplugs. Out of the water, her essentials are a towel, swim coat, hot water bottle, hot drink, warm clothes, hat, gloves and a mat to stand on.

Having the correct equipment is vital when swimming outdoors and you can read our full guide on equipment essentials here.

You can read more about Swim England’s health and safety advice for open water swimming by visiting our open water hub here.

To book a spot on one of our upcoming open water swimming webinars, click here. They are free and open to everyone, with the first webinar taking place on 6 April.