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Archive for the ‘Swimming’ Category

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Having spent a fortnight touring France, Germany, Austria and Switzerland I am left with many questions about the disparity between European and British swimming culture. From my perspective as a swimmer, and as Brexit draws closer, I wonder if we were ever really part of Europe at all. Switzerland is bordered, and very much influenced by its neighbours. When it comes to swimming there is no need for an ‘Outdoor Swimming Society’ or a ‘Wild Swimming’ guide, because in every river and lake where swimming is possible, hot weather draws swimmers to the water in droves. Local authorities provide a huge number of bathing beaches, lakeside lidos, diving boards, changing rooms, BBQ facilities and even firewood with an axe to chop it up. But lifeguards are typically absent, with a swim, jump, or dive at ‘your own risk’ notice taking their place.

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In England, changing attitudes and perceived concerns have forced swimmers out of most rivers and lakes. The rules by which we live make us cautious in the extreme. Designated bathing areas at the seaside give us a sense of security. Lifeguards are seen as essential. We are constantly warned of the dangers of deep water and convinced that ‘cold water shock’ makes the risk of outdoor swimming seem to those unacquainted with its pleasures, foolhardy at best.

Basel River Swimming

Soon after landing at Basel airport my wife and I were drifting down the Rhine. The river police have earmarked specific bathing places to separate swimmers in the city from shipping. Even so, you have to navigate your way around cross-river ferries, bridge pillars and marker buoys. It’s a little like playing a slow motion game of ‘Space Invaders’, only in this version you have to avoid rather than intercept approaching targets. Swimmers and their dry bags line the riverbank; boys jump in and delight as they are swept along in the swift current. With thousands swimming every day in the cool deep fast flowing water there must be accidents surely? Surprisingly, Switzerland which encourages swimming at every opportunity, shares a similar safety record to that of the over cautious English, who feel duty bound to keep swimmers out of open water to reduce the risk of drowning and any chance of litigation. Yet if our drowning statistics are just the same as Switzerland’s, could it be that with a little education, open water swimming could be opened up in England, just as it is has always been in the rest of Europe?

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The same story unfolds wherever I travel. Take for example the Strandbad in Hard, Austria. Attracting 2,300 swimmers on a hot day, there are pontoons and springboards enticing huge numbers into the greenish waters of a huge lake. The entrance fee includes the use of lockers and changing rooms, and a beautiful chrome edged open air pool with flumes and excited children everywhere. But look for a lifeguard and you will be disappointed. In Austria the dolphin like children sport slender physiques and deep suntans in settings that echo Britain in the 1950’s. Can you imagine a paid attraction in the UK drawing such numbers with the focus on keeping the site clean and the café well staffed rather than on providing lifeguards? For Austrians the school holidays are spent by the river or lake, and swimming even for the very young is a happy and fulfilling way of life. Europe is in itself an outdoor swimming society; swimmers feel at one with the countryside, they enjoy being outdoors; cycling and swimming whenever possible. Could it be that after all these years as part of Europe we have simply not thought to look at the lessons that could be learned from those who swim, swim, swim?

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For how long will English outdoor swimmers be faced with the inevitable reaction to their activities; “They must need help, call 999”? 

Education is of cause the key, but it is not just potential swimmers that need educating, landowners and local authorities also have a lot to learn. Certainly much needs to be done if the swimming holes of the past are to be resurrected today. What I learned from my holiday is that swimming in deep cold water does not lead to certain death, but rather to a very happy life!

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Switzerland Cities: Bern, Schwellenmaetteli

The Local ch reports: Bern residents know there’s nothing better than a swim in the river Aare on a hot summer’s day.

Jumping in upriver and floating down the fast-flowing water into Bern is a popular pastime in the city.

Some even use the turquoise river as a means of commuting to work, drifting around the Swiss capital with a change of clothes in a dry bag.

The Aare flows in a loop around the base of the city, with the town sitting up above, so residents have to walk down from the roads and bridges above to access the riverside.

Now one Bern-based organization wants to make it even easier to go for a dip – and increase the fun factor at the same time.

Grassroots organization Alternative Linke (AL) has proposed to the Bern city authorities that slides be installed at various places in the city to offer a fast and fun way to access the river below, reported 20 Minuten on Thursday.

The public chutes could be installed in the Lorraine and Bundesrain districts, said Markus Flück, who came up with the idea.

The slides “combine usefulness with pleasure,” he told the paper.

“We are aware that this is a very imaginative idea but also one that is very realizable,” he added.

AI submitted the idea to the authorities in early summer, said the paper.

The organization’s plan also suggests installing lifts on several bridges in the city to allow people to get back up to the city centre again.

Discover wild swimming in Switzerland

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The Local FR reports: It’s official. The water in the Paris canal is clean enough to swim in meaning Parisians won’t have an excuse not to take a dip this summer.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has promised Parisians they will be able to swim in the city’s canal this summer after test results revealed the water is clean enough for health standards.
Paris authorities had already voted to allow free swimming in the Bassin de la Villette which links the Canal St Martin and the Canal de l’Ourq in the north east of the city and is one of the locations for the Paris Plages summer beach festival.
But the green light depended on whether the water was clean enough.
The results are in and it’s good news for the city’s swimmers, many of whom took a dip in the canal for a one-off “open day” last summer (see photo above).
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The temporary structures will be built into the actual Bassin, which connects the Canal de l’Ourcq with the Canal Saint-Martin.
The smallest of the pools will be for children and just 40 centimetres deep. Another will be up to 120 centimetres in depth, while a third will be reserved for swimmers at 2m deep.
The pools in total will stretch 90 metres end to end and measure 16m across.
The City Hall estimates that around 1,000 people will show up to the pools on any given summer day.
It plans to take down the pools at the end of the summer period, with the hopes of setting them up again in the summer of 2018.
The Bassin de la Villette was inaugurated in 1808 by Napoleon Bonaparte and was a former port area during the industrialisation of rivers.
However these days it is the centre for numerous cultural events and has been well and truly gentriifed with numerous trendy bars and restaurants opening alongside the water.

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The Sunday Post reports: A WOMAN who conquered a crippling fear of water aims to become the first person to swim around Britain’s coastline.

Recovering aquaphobic Paula McGuire, 36, has spent most of her life avoiding the sea due to her fear of drowning.

Now she plans to test herself to the limit by swimming from Land’s End to John o’ Groats and back around.

Over a gruelling five-month period, she’ll travel 1800 miles, battling chilly waters, crashing waves, strong currents and exhaustion.

Swimming around six hours at a time, she’ll burn off more than 5000 calories a day, meaning she’ll have to eat huge amounts of food.

Some days she will have to start swimming in the middle of the night depending on tide times.

However, for Paula, who has suffered from social anxiety since she was a child, the mental demands will outweigh the physical.

“I’m doing it to raise awareness of mental health but also to show people who have these issues that you can still have a fulfilling, healthy and active life.”

Until now she’s never been in open water at a depth where she couldn’t still walk.

In an intense period of preparation, she will be training in outdoor pools, open water facilities and coastal seas. “I have from April until the end of September to do the challenge,” said Paula.

“That’s the only window that the sea temperature won’t kill me and I won’t start losing toes.”

Paula, of Riddrie, Glasgow, said: “I’ll be eating a lot of protein and carbs smeared in butter because I need calories without feeling weighed down.

“I’m swimming for the cake!”

She’ll also be accompanied by a safety boat and a kayaker to supply her with her protein shakes and keep an eye on her.

She’s also looking for help from kayakers, boat enthusiasts and sponsors and is adamant nothing will hold her back.

Anxiety turned Paula, an electronic notetaker, into a “functioning recluse” who only left home to attend classes at school and university.

Badly bullied at school, by 16 she was on anxiety medication having tried counselling and hypnosis without success.

On turning 30, she decided she wasn’t going to be governed by her nerves any more and took on her sporty challenge to boost her confidence.

Now, she’s hoping her epic swim will help take her further along that journey.

She said: “I’d been thinking the next challenge I did would have to be a big one.

“I feel like there’s more in me – there’s more to do.”

Find out more at paulamusttryharder.co.uk

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The Telegraph reports: The National Trust is to open its first public swimming pool after gardeners restoring a spectacular Victorian property stumbled across a long forgotten lido.

Groundsmen working at Standen House in West Sussex  – the former home of celebrated horticulturist Margaret Beale – discovered the neglected pond when they nearly fell into it while clearing undergrowth.

The lido was built in the 1890s for the wealthy Beale family and their seven children to enjoy a dip in the heart of their 12 acre garden. But it was long forgotten after being hidden beneath decades of growth. It would be the first time a man-made pool had been opened to the public at one of its properties.

Letters and diary entries by Mrs Beale, housed at Standen, reveal how the children spent happy summer in the pool. They would compete for the right to swim in the deep end by testing how long they could remain dunked underwater, and would dare one another to jump in rather than descend the steps. Read more…

 

 

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Hindustan Times reports: Swimming, racquet sports and aerobics are associated with the best odds of staving off death, and in particular of reducing the risk of dying from heart disease or stroke, scientists said…

… research, published in the British Journal and Sports Medicine …analysed data from 11 annual health surveys for England and Scotland carried out between 1994 and 2008, covering 80,306 adults with an average age of 52. Participants were asked about what type and how much exercise they had done in the preceding four weeks, and whether it had been enough to make them breathless and sweaty.

Exercise included heavy domestic chores and gardening; walking; cycling; swimming; aerobics, gymnastics or dance; running; football or rugby; and badminton, tennis or squash. The survival of each participant was tracked for an average of nine years, during which time 8,790 of them died from all causes and 1,909 from heart disease or stroke.

In death from heart disease and stroke, the study found racquet sports players had a 56% lower risk, with 41% for swimming and 36% for aerobics, compared with those who did not participate in these sports.

Chico said …“I will continue to tell my patients that regular physical activity… is more effective in reducing their risk of heart disease than any drug I can prescribe.”

Despite the benefits of swimming the number of participants in the UK continues to drop.

Discover the full story: Hung Out to Dry Swimming and British Culture

 

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The Mirror reports: “Almost seven in 10 of bathing sites in England now meet ‘excellent’ standard set out by the EU…”

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In 2016, 287 beaches and inland swimming sites in the country met the tough top standards set out in the European Union’s Bathing Water Directive (69.5%), and 407 out of the 413 spots assessed passed the minimum grade.

But six bathing waters failed to meet even minimum standards: Scarborough South Bay, Yorkshire; Clacton (Groyne 41), Essex; Walpole Bay, Margate, Kent; Instow, Devon; Ilfracombe Wildersmouth, Devon; and Burnham Jetty North, Somerset.

The figures, which look at results for water quality over the last four years, are an improvement on 2015, the first year of results under the new EU system , when 63.6% of beaches met excellent standards.

This is partly due to improvements being made in infrastructure at or near bathing sites in recent years, which has helped reduce pollution and cut levels of harmful bacteria in swimming spots that can make people ill.

But this year’s figures are also better than 2015 because of more favourable weather conditions.

Better weather reduces the risk of overflows from sewers and storm drains and the amount of urban and agricultural pollutants washing down to the sea when there is heavy rainfall.

The 2015 results include the very wet summer of 2012, which saw water quality at bathing sites drop.

Environment Secretary Andrea Leadsom said: “England’s bathing waters are enjoyed by millions of people every year, which is why I am delighted the water quality at our beaches and lakes is better than at any time since before the Industrial Revolution. More…

 

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