Science suggests plausible mechanisms but not the full story

A person swimming in the River Thames
A person swimming in the River Thames

One morning in March, I stood, shivering, on the banks of the Thames. A strong cool breeze blew from the south, churning up the river, which looked grey and uninviting. I measured the water at 9.5 degrees. The sky was too overcast for a redeeming sunrise. I didn’t want to do this, not right at that moment, but I knew I was going to. There’s a remorseless illogic to this. Once you’ve announced you’re going to swim, you have to do it, however much you want to change your mind at the last moment. …


Cold water, strong currents and poor visibility. What’s not to like?

A swimmer next to a river
A swimmer next to a river

First light. The Thames is flowing into London at about 400m3/s. That means nearly 1.5 million tons of water per hour are thundering over the weir at Teddington Lock. I watch the murky swirling waters for a few minutes, trying to gauge the speed from the ducks and seagulls drifting by. It’s somewhere between a fast walk and a slow jog — faster than I can swim. I check the depth of water at our usual exit point and make sure it’s not obstructed, and I measure the water…


A brief guide to James Clear’s Atomic Habits for outdoor swimmers

A swimmer in the ocean, head down, swimming front crawl
A swimmer in the ocean, head down, swimming front crawl

In Atomic Habits, James Clear explains how progress in anything is made through the accumulation of small gains. In essence, your habits, how you act day to day, determines where you end up. Atomic Habits is a guide to making it easy to adopt and stick to good habits, and eliminate bad ones.

After reading the book recently, I wondered how you might apply James’s ideas to outdoor swimming.

The underlying principle is that we are defined by our habits. To decide what good habits you should adopt, and which bad habits you should drop, you need a vision of…


Tired of the road? Bored of the pool? Swimrun could be the adventure sport you’ve been waiting for

A man and woman emerging from the sea during a swimrun event
A man and woman emerging from the sea during a swimrun event

A swimrun is exactly what it says: you swim and run. But unlike aquathlon, where you swim first, put on your shoes and then run, swimrun involves non-stop multiple swim and run sections. There are no transition areas to leave kit. Participants must carry everything they need with them and therefore swim in their running shoes and run in their wetsuits (which are usually compulsory).

Jude Palmer, a swimrun and running coach, says swimrun is much like wild swimming in that it shares a sense of adventure, community and personal challenge. And, as with swimming events, you can take a…


Why swimming upriver slows you down so much, and what to do about it

The Selkie Henley Classic is a rare event. Not only does it start at 4:30 in the morning, you also have to swim against the current. Still, there must be something in it, as many people come back year after year.

Finishing times this year were slow. In 2019 (the last time this event was held as it was cancelled due to covid in 2020), the women’s winner, Vicky Cunningham, completed the 2.1km course in 29:34. This year, she won the women’s event again (and came third overall) in 31:32. Nearly 2 minutes slower.

There could be several reasons why…


If swimming feels rusty after lockdown, here’s how to get it flowing again

I have days when swimming feels smooth and relaxing. It flows and I’m at one with the water. Other times, it’s a struggle. Something stops working. Waves smack my face when I turn to breathe, my arms are heavy, my hands scrabble through the water, the timing is awkward. I feel clumsy and uncoordinated.

Coming back to swimming after lockdown, not only was I much slower than before, swimming was difficult. I couldn’t find the flow. It wasn’t just fitness I’d lost, but my ability to connect with the water. And it’s not that I’d been out of the water…


What’s the best time to get back into the water after a winter break?

Spring has arrived. The open water is warming up. We’re optimistic about being able to do some outdoor swimming events or challenges this summer. But when can you get in the open water and start swimming again?

It’s an interesting question. For those who have swum outside through the winter, it’s mystifying. As far as they are concerned, the water is already warm, and they never stopped swimming outside anyway.

However, if you want to do some serious, head-down, longer-distance freestyle, then it’s a legitimate thing to ask. Outdoor winter swimming, for most people who do it, is about having…


As a publisher, little annoys me more than incoherent writing

If you want to impress me with your writing, give me a logical and coherent structure. Lead me from ignorance to understanding in easy-to-follow steps with your words, sentences, paragraphs, sections, and chapters. Deliver all the components of what you want to tell me in the best order to see the full picture at the end. Build your story methodically, like a wall.

As a reader, editor and publisher, I crave good structure. I’m mildly obsessive about it. But many writers neglect it. I’ve received submissions I’ve had to rip apart, discard half, then reassemble the rest to create a…


And what I learned from them

In February 2011, I created a company and published the first issue of H2Open, a printed magazine for open water swimmers (now called Outdoor Swimmer). My experience in publishing up until then was limited to freelance contributions to a handful of magazines, primarily Triathlete’s World and Africa Investor. I knew nothing about design, advertising sales, subscriptions management, or the publication process. I found out enough to get started through Google. The rest I learned through trial and error. Naturally, I made a few mistakes. Here are some, along with what I would do instead, with the benefit of hindsight. …


Here’s how they do it

As a small business owner, I love talking to other people in similar positions and learning about their marketing strategies. I recently had the pleasure of speaking with Dan Holton, the founder and managing director of Your Guitar Academy (YGA).

This is the strapline from YGA’s website:

“Over 800 professional guitar lessons, filmed in stunning HD video, from the best tutors in the business. Oh, and they’re all free.”

That’s right, Dan and his team of guitar tutors create amazing video courses, and post them all on YouTube, in their entirety, and don’t charge a penny.

How could this possibly…

Simon Griffiths

I am the founder of Outdoor Swimmer magazine (https://www.outdoorswimmer.com). I write about swimming, swimrun, writing, marketing, business & publishing.

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