Every Sunday at 9.15am, I drag myself out of my cosy bed, shimmy a still-damp wetsuit up to my waist and tug a hoodie over my head.
Still half asleep, I make a flask of coffee, pull on my trainers, grab my kit bag and head 2 miles up the road to the beach.
The road is quiet – just birdsong and the gentle lap of waves. The beach car park is dotted with wild swimmers and alive with the mutterings of quick catch-ups and the snap of too-tight neoprene. I whip off my warm clothes, zip up my wetsuit and join the others heading bravely to the sea.
We wade in.
We edge reluctantly up to our waists. Then shoulders under. Howls erupt as icy water surges down our suits.
Gasps and groans and swearing and then… quiet.
We settle in, breathe through the discomfort, and swim.
I started wild swimming about 2 years ago, shortly after I moved to the Isle of Jura in Scotland.
I thought it’d be a great way to meet people.
I had no idea how important it would become to me for my growth as a person and as a business owner.
Since I’ve started these magically healing* swims, I’ve seen my business flourish from a renewed clarity, energy and openness.
I thought I’d share some of the ways wild swimming helps me, in case you’re curious about trying it.
*Obviously not magic. But I do find the ocean immensely healing.
1. It lets me practice getting out of my comfort zone
No matter how regularly you swim, getting into cold water is never comfortable!
Often before a swim, I feel apprehensive about the discomfort. On some days, I’ll even feel anxious, panicked or doubtful that I can do it.
(Sound familiar, business owners?)
In order to keep getting into the water every week, I have had to learn strategies for overcoming self-limiting beliefs, breathing through anxiety, and offering myself up to the uncomfortable grasps of the cold water.
I really can’t think of a better way to practice getting out of your comfort zone.
2. It facilitates positive thinking
The rush of endorphins I get from a dip in chilly water makes me feel giddy with happiness afterwards (the post-swim buzz). This always makes me feel positive about my week ahead and ready to tackle anything I’ve got coming up.
3. It makes me feel strong and capable
Getting into the water is never easy. There is always a mental battle to work through. But if you manage to keep going, the feeling afterwards is like nothing else. You emerge feeling victorious, like you can take on anything!
The best feeling!
4. It is great for managing stress
I truly believe the ocean has healing powers. I can go in with a head full of worries or racing thoughts and come out with a calmed mind and a clear perspective.
Wild swimming is great for stress relief.
There are a few reasons for this.
Firstly, like any exercise, it releases ‘happiness hormones’ (endorphins).
Secondly, being in cold water apparently reduces the production of stress hormones over time.
Getting into cold water also triggers the body’s ‘fight or flight’ response, which you have to learn to breathe through in order to swim safely.
I love having wild swimming in my stress management toolbox so that I can more confidently face stressful situations.
5. It sharpens my thinking (and frees up space for creativity)
Being in water helps me work through knotty problems or creative blocks. The cold water washes away the brain fog. If I have writer’s block, I can guarantee that I’ll emerge from the water with a new idea.
I think the mix of the cold water and being in nature lets my brain properly switch off, which lets my subconscious mind kick in and work its creative magic.
6. It helps with mindfulness
When you’re up to your shoulders in 10°C water, it’s hard to think about anything other than what your body is experiencing. As your mind starts to race with the fight or flight response, it forces you to go inward, be present and be in your body.
If you’ve ever tried meditation or other mindfulness activities, you’ll know how beneficial this is as a business owner. It helps with feeling calmer, remaining focused, being more empathetic and patient, staying level-headed and logical, managing nerves, and loads more.
7. It keeps me meeting new people
As an introvert who works alone at home, I can easily go for days without seeing anyone but my partner and my dog!
Having a weekly swim with my friends keeps me working my social muscles.
This is super important for me as it helps me feel more confident during client calls, online networking sessions, etc.
Talking about wild swimming on social media has also helped me meet other business owners who love swimming outdoors. I dislike traditional networking, so this genuine, values-aligned way of meeting new people works perfectly!
8. It reconnects me with my purpose
Swimming once a week gets me out from behind my laptop and fully immersed in the watery world of the ocean. As an eco copywriter whose deeper purpose is to help protect our natural environment, it has been game-changing in reconnecting me with my ‘why’ on a weekly basis.
9. It encourages REST
This is a big one…
Because it’s part of my weekly routine to go swimming on a Sunday morning, I purposely leave the rest of my Sunday free to relax. Like many of us, I find it hard to stop and rest. But after a cold swim, I’m tired. I get back, put on my pyjamas, have something to eat, and generally curl up for the rest of the day with a book or TV show. I might even *gasp* nap!
Rest is SO important for ensuring your brain can produce the wonderful work you know it’s capable of. I’d encourage any business owner to find an activity that lets you switch off properly (keeping in mind that this means something different to everyone).
An icy dip in the beautiful natural surroundings of Loch an t-Siob
10. It’s a weekly reset
My final point is that wild swimming resets me for the week.
Diving under into cold, salty water washes away my stress and worries from the week. I can feel them dissipate as the bubbles fizz around my ears, leaving me feeling cleansed, less bogged down, and renewed for the week ahead.
I love this quote from Roger Deakin, from his book Waterlog:
“Natural water has always held the magical power to cure. Somehow or other, it transmits its own self-regenerating powers to the swimmer. I can dive in with a long face and what feels like a terminal case of depression, and come out a whistling idiot. There is a feeling of absolute freedom and wildness that comes with the sheer liberation of nakedness as well as weightlessness in natural water, and it leads to a deep bond with the bathing place.”
I couldn’t agree more. That’s exactly how it feels.
Wild swimming has definitely made me braver in business and helped me feel comfortable showing up as my raw, authentic, salty-haired self. It’s become my go-to when I’m feeling off, and I can always feel the difference if I skip it.
Do you have a hobby that has positively benefited your business? I’d love to hear how you work fun and wellness into your working week – I think it’s so essential to a healthy business!