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Lockdown led masters swimmer Helen Davis to foster a love for open water

‘Leaping into action’ has been a common theme running throughout the lockdown periods for masters swimmer, Helen Davis.

A lifelong swimmer and a resident Swim England sport psychologist, Helen has experienced the hardships of 2020 just as each and every member of the aquatics community has.

Helen says that time away from her beloved pool reaffirmed how integral swimming is in her life.

“I recognised how special swimming is to me”, she said. “It has shaped me throughout my childhood, history, friendships, work, travel, and values to name a few.

“I very much see swimming as part of my identity and this is a big motivator for me. Some of my most treasured memories in my life stem from swimming, the people I’ve met, and the experiences and opportunities it has given me.

Like many pool swimmers, Helen took up outdoor swimming to satiate her desire to be in the water again. By doing this, and following all the correct safety precautions, Helen fostered a new love for open water swimming and the environments she found herself in.

“Open Water swimming initially was a way of keeping fit”, said Helen. “Once open water swimming venues opened, I started swimming four or five times a week at local lakes.

“I started noticing the benefits of being in cold water and in lockdown 2.0, it gave me something to do but also opened my eyes to the environment”

Helen explains that she set herself some short-term goals which included ‘staying in the water longer, getting [herself] kitted out properly, and swimming into November.

She added: “As I achieved these goals, I decided I could become a winter swimmer and set myself the target of continuing for as long as I could manage it.

“I had the chance to learn about my local river, see beautiful sunrises and sunsets, observe owls, ducks and geese, and the robin who always visits me when I swim”, she said. “An appreciation of the small things suddenly formed a big part of my week.”

Productivity in lockdown

Helen has made sure to implement ways to keep her engaged with the sport she loves during periods of lockdown.

She said: “My first reaction was to leap into action. I have always been someone who throws myself into things 100 percent and lockdown was no different.”

After setting herself up with an inflatable pool, Helen explored tether training, an activity involving attaching yourself to a bungee cord that became popular during the initial lockdown.

Helen said: “We were fortunate with the weather and I swam daily; setting myself challenges, ordered mirrors for the bottom of the pool for stroke analysis, and viewed lockdown as an opportunity to work on my technique.

“Another way of coping was to maintain connections with my swimming buddies and talk about all things swimming. I had regular calls, took part in shared physical challenges, helped organise club dry swimming land sessions, and ended up doing far more exercise than I usually do.

“It was disappointing not to swim, but I was able to do many other forms of exercise and I enjoyed doing different things; cycling, skipping, walking, and weights.”

‘The buzz of racing’

As a competitor, Helen yearns for ‘the buzz of racing’ once again: “I thrive when training for an event, having that focus, tailoring your training to what you want to achieve and the buzz of racing”, she said.

“I love to race and lockdown made me realise how much I missed it.”

Helen took ownership of her goals and reset them as the situation changed. She said: “My new goal became to swim on Christmas day wearing my Christmas pudding hat with the lights flashing – how different was this end of year goal compared to the goal I had at the start of 2020!

“I have got so much enjoyment from both goals and not being able to complete my breaststroke goal hasn’t bothered me.

“There will be another 100m Breaststroke, on another day, in another year, in another place. It can wait.”

Swim England recently reiterated important open water safety advice for those considering going open water swimming in the latest lockdown.

Furthermore, Swim England, British Triathlon and the Royal Life Saving Society UK published detailed open water swimming safety advice last May following the lifting of the first national lockdown.

It can be viewed on the SH2OUT website.