Five years ago OSS Ambassador Vivienne Rickman Poole embarked on a personal challenge to swim all 30 days of April. With so many swimmers now swimming through winter the idea of more people joining the April #30daysofswimming movement seems more of a reality than ever.
I began #30daysofswimming after a friend, Wendy, told me about this cycling ‘thing’ she did every year and was starting the following week. #30daysofbiking had a simple ethos, you pledged to ride your bike every day in April and share your adventures online with the hashtag #30daysofbiking – I loved the concept, only I didn’t own a bike. I thought it would be great to swim the month alongside her, so to speak. There are no rules involved ‘just simply to experience the sheer joy of being outside in water one way or another, every day for 30 days’ and I also shared my adventures online.
That first month was an intrepid adventure, experiencing all the weather Snowdonia had to throw at me. I swam with the deepest snow in 30 years on the hills, broke ice to get in, endured crazy hailstorms, laughed my head off all alone in some crazy winds and bathed in glorious sunshine.
It had to be April to be able to take part with Wendy. It was about being part of something, sharing the joy, and especially being motivated by others when it got difficult. I was on my own in the mountains most days. I repeated the 30 days again that September because April had been a turbulent month, I wanted to know what it was like to swim every day when the water was at its warmest. Which was great, but it just didn’t have that same appeal. For me, the weather in Snowdonia is really significant in April, it can swing from deepest winter to spring sunshine and back again every other day.
The month has evolved over the years and taken on many forms. I am one of those people who love change, perhaps a little bit too much. My project Swim Snowdonia – to explore, document and swim all the permanent bodies of water in Snowdonia National Park, was born out of not wanting to spend the entire month swimming in the same lakes. However, I do find the discipline of a daily practice rejuvenating and find the act of swimming hugely beneficial to my creative work. Last year’s 30 days was purely a creative endeavour and I focused less on swimming and more on being in and around water. This year I want to use the time to feed more into my writing work, which has been evolving over the past year.
I do occasionally dread the swims, Snowdonia is renowned for its rain and on a cold, blustery and wet April day it can be pretty hard to leave the house, let alone strip off and climb into an icy mountain lake. I find by sharing my daily exploits I am constantly encouraged when I need it most by the words of complete strangers, I use these to give me the motivation to get up and out there each day.
This depends largely on the agenda for the month, one year I set myself the goal of #30Lakes30Days, so I needed to swim in 30 different lakes and that did take a lot of planning. I injured my back on day 11 and was unable to drive for the rest of the month, so I had to plan to get myself to a lake every day . I used either public transport or a kind friend with a car, this whilst nursing a fairly serious injury was no mean feat.
If I am squeezing a swim in around work I will plan where is convenient, maybe stop off somewhere on route. If I have a creative plans I might choose a certain lake for its location or what it is like underwater. I am very fortunate to live and work in the mountains so there is no shortage of lakes or sea to take a dip in.
April is a great month of seasonal change. The biggest thing I notice is the change in the water. At the beginning of April, it is still very cold, but throughout the month you can feel the warmth slowly creep back into the water through your skin, feel the sun on your back as you swim and I notice the tiny fish in the shallows return, every year without fail, who knows where they go for winter, but they come back during April.
Since I started this in 2013, I find that I swim most days throughout the year, so this isn’t so much about the endurance of managing to swim every day of the month. It’s about feeding creativity and having an entire month dedicated purely to that. I find swimming very zen-like, akin to yoga practice. I use it to give myself clarity of thought and time and space away from the rest of the day. It has become a really productive month, and I look forward to the discipline of knowing I am giving both my swimming and creative practice time each day.
I can be very fickle about my swims, but I absolutely love deep water. I always want to be at the deepest point of a mountain lake knowing there is that depth of nothingness below me. I love feisty weather, a bit of wind, the kind that makes you feel alive and I absolutely crave the purity and pressure of fresh water on my skin. I fall in and out of love with different times of day, I mean how can you choose between sunrise and sunset? A sneaky lunchtime dip of a sunny day or an icy finger numbing dip on a dark night?
Don’t give yourself rules, plan to do only what makes you happy, then do it and share it!
To discover more about Vivienne, visit her website.