Share your love of swimming in wind, ice, and stinging rain. Whether your love of winter swimming is fledging, established, or on-off, Zeno’s Swim Club, a virtual online community inspired by the Stoic school of philosophy, is the club for you.
In a year that has presented perpetual challenges, one thing is clear: we’re all Stoics now. Maybe not all in cold water – yet – but we have all mustered fortitude in the face of adversity. So this year, Zeno’s is all about the largely uncelebrated art of just putting one foot in front of the other. Maybe going a step further than before; maybe not. In short, this year it’s all about the small swim wins – whatever that means for you.
Zeno (of Citium, 334-226 BC) was the founding father of Stoicism and if we could boil that philosophy down to one simple tenet for swimmers it would be: keep going. When it comes to winter, drop the drama, disengage from the pain, forget waiting for the rain to stop or the wind to be warm. And just keep going.
Swimming outdoors is never just about the swimming – and never more so in winter, when the actual swimming only lasts for minutes. What it is about (among other things) is increasing the number of things you can bear. Mastering the ability to keep your mind still when your body is screaming. Keeping your mouth quiet, when it could be moaning. Choosing discomfort, when you could still be in bed. And ultimately feeling stronger, braver, clearer and better as a result of it.
Zeno believed the path to happiness is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself. As another fine Stoic said: ‘It does not matter what you bear, but how you bear it” (Seneca). Nothing teaches calm resilience like getting into really cold water again and again.
Crucially, this isn’t a case of all or nothing. Chalking up a small swim win might mean spending more time staring at the way the leaves are reflected in the water, or the diffusion of sun rays through it, when out for a dip. It might mean just doing one more winter swim than last year – and that might be one swim. It might mean going for longer without a wetsuit, if you usually switch early in the season.
This virtual winter swimming club is a sub-set of The Outdoor Swimming Society and, like the OSS, accepts you as you present yourself. There are therefore only two criteria for membership:
Firstly, that you swim through winter – from October through April in the Northern Hemisphere, and May to October in the Southern Hemisphere. The swim routine is up to you: every day, every week, every month. All that matters is getting in from the start to finish of winter. Any type of immersion counts: you don’t need to swim a distance, if your shoulders are under, you are in.
Secondly, that you count yourself as ‘in’. Then go find the others. To do this #thestoics on social media (or follow the #), wear the hat, and to the extent that you want to share photos, tips and stories. If you’re not hooked up with The OSS already join us on @theoutdoorswimmingsociety on Instagram, @outdoorswimming on Twitter , through elsewhere, our monthly free journal or Facebook (see the Page for announcements, and Group for community chat),
“Well-being is realised by small steps, but is truly no small thing.” Zeno
Swimming in the cold holds risk. These cold risks include, but are not limited to, cold shock and cold incapacitation, afterdrop, hypothermia and death. Conditions such as asthma and high blood pressure can cause problems with sudden immersion in cold.
Please use the resources available (such as the Cold section of this website and the other swimmers within The Outdoor Swimming Society community on FB) to educate yourself before getting in, and swim safe. If you decide that you are fit and ready for winter swimming, seek the advice of the more experienced, consider swimming in a group (either a wild swim group or a winter lido) and go gently – think 10 strokes not 10 minutes.
Responsibility for safety lies with individual swimmers and is not assumed by The Outdoor Swimming Society or any of it’s volunteers or staff in providing this free community group (please see the terms of our OSS Swim Responsibility Statement).
Want to share (or show off) your membership of Zeno’s swim club with friends whilst keeping warm and cosy after those cold water swims? Why not get yourself a Zeno’s Swim Club hoodie, tee or swim hat?