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Rugby union star Joe Marler’s love for outdoor swimming in ‘Big Boys Don’t Cry’

On mental health awareness week, rugby union star Joe Marler discovered a love for outdoor swimming during his new documentary, ‘Big Boys Don’t Cry’.

The hour-long programme saw the prop forward open up about his battle with depression and his search for tools to help him manage his mental health.

Among those was outdoor swimming, with Marler visiting Llyn Dinas, a lake near Snowdonia in north Wales.

Introducing the 30-year-old to swimming in the great outdoors was wild swimmer Vivienne Rickman, who explained the risks of cold water shock and the need to enter the water slowly to acclimatise.

After his first dip, Marler described the feeling as ‘amazing’ saying he had a ‘rush of blood’ around his body.

In conversation with Vivienne, Marler added: “I’m worried this might become a drug, I’m just going to be dipping in and out of lakes.”

Outdoor swimming has a number of health benefits, such as better sleep, increased happiness, boosted immune system and the prevention and management of long-term health conditions.

A recent report from the Outdoor Swimmer magazine also found that two-thirds of outdoor swimmers say the activity is essential or very important to their mental health.

During the documentary, Marler asked outdoor swimming advocate Vivienne why she got into the activity.

She said: “We spend our lives now with mobile phones and to do lists, but when I’m in the water it’s just me. I don’t have all that baggage around.

“It’s about survival when it’s that cold and for me, my mind is empty. My mum was a swimmer and when she was young there was no swimming pools so she swam outside.

“When my mum died I started to swim a lot more and it just became apparent that swimming was the one thing that connected me to my mum.

“I was one of those people that kept it all in, but it was thinking that she would be proud that has enabled me to talk about it now. Her being proud helps me out the difficult situations.”

Extraordinary people

As the documentary drew to a close, Marler showed off his new found passion as he visited the seafront in Hove and headed for a dip in the sea with the ‘Salty Seabirds’.

He said: “With depression, there’s not a cure, there’s not one thing that goes ‘right you’re done, you’re fixed’.

“Sometimes I have big low points. Right, what have I got in my armoury to bring myself up again? We’re learning all the time about what makes us happy and how to make us happy as we go.

“I went looking for answers, but what I found were people, ordinary people. Ordinary, but extraordinary, because they’ve all got a little something. A little way of letting the light in.”

Marler has since thanked the Salty Seabirds, a community of swimmers who head to Brighton and Hove’s beaches and go for a swim in the sea.

He took to social media to say: “Thank you for sharing all your stories with me and converting me into a sea swimmer!”

In the final words of his new documentary, he added: “Mental health is just another part of all of us, the same way physical health is part of all of us.

“Will I ever come off anti-depressants? Who knows, but now I have other tools to help me along the way.”

If you would like to try outdoor swimming, visit the Swim England ‘Get Started with Open Water Swimming’ page.

However, please ensure you follow the correct health and safety advice for open water swimming by visiting the Swim England open water hub.

Watch Joe Mаrler in Big Boys Don’t Cry via Sky On Demand.

Picture credit: Sky UK Ltd