Overcoming body consciousness to swim the channel

Date: 19 August 2020   Author: Energise Me

We’ve all got dreams of things we would love to achieve. Sarah overcame her fears and feelings of body consciousness to make her dream of swimming the channel a reality. She shared with us her journey to completing the swim.

Until around 5 years ago, I’d been conscious of my weight for pretty much all of my adult life. I had always been between diets. I lost weight and then put it back on. As a child, I’d always swum and it was something I’d enjoyed. But life seemed to get in the way as I got older.  As I was edging towards 50, my two sons were growing up, and I was sitting on the settee of an evening feeling more and more fed up and comfort eating.

Once I started I loved it. I ended up going far more often than planned.

Starting off gently

I’d always had a vague dream of swimming the English Channel. After talking with my ever-supportive husband, I decided to enter the Aspire Channel swim challenge. 12 weeks to swim 21 miles. I reckoned it would take me a couple of swims a week and my husband bought me a one-year membership for our local pool. This gave me something to focus on in the evenings and once I started I loved it. I ended up going far more often and I met and joined a fabulous early morning group. Overall I swam just under 60 miles (and lost a stone).

I realised it was now or never and I decided to go for the Channel.

Increasing the Challenge

I was feeling so much better and decided to give myself a challenge for the following year in the open water. I nervously entered the first-ever London Docks 10k swim and really started training. I can’t tell you how fabulous it felt to finish that swim, it had taken me well outside of my comfort zone and I had tears in my goggles when I realised I was going to finish it.

I then had a chance meeting with a very inspirational swimmer who believes that everyone should chase their dreams. This made me realise it was now or never and I decided to go for the Channel. I booked and paid my deposit and then set about training for just over 3 years. During that time I swam outdoors all year round. I got more and more adventurous each year. I also took on some tough events, each one helping me get ready to tackle the Channel.


The friends I’ve made

I have found the swimming community, especially open water, to be full of encouraging, supportive and friendly people. There’s a certain bond that gets made when shivering half-naked in the middle of the winter, and I’ve made some lifelong friends. The swimmers I’ve met come from all different backgrounds. They are all various ages, and shapes and sizes and we all share the love of water. No one’s bothered about what anyone else looks like in their cossie! Weight has become much less of an issue to me. It’s actually quite helpful to have a few extra pounds of insulation in cold water!

So, fast forward 3 and a bit years and I’m now a Channel Swimmer! I’m still a bit overweight and do you know what? I don’t care! At almost 52, I’ve achieved something I didn’t know was possible when I started and I’m over the moon. I’m also the fittest I’ve ever been.

It’s never too late! Don’t forget that the time will pass whether you do it or not. So go for it!

My Advice to you

My advice to everyone is that you owe it to yourself to follow your dreams and do what makes you happy in life. Whatever you want to do, step boldly out of your comfort zone and go for it! Don’t worry about what people think. In my experience, they are far more likely to be worried about themselves than what you look like. It’s never too late! Don’t forget that the time will pass whether you do it or not. So go for it!

Give swimming a try

Swimming - This Girl Can

Dive into a new activity like swimming! It’s a recreational activity enjoyed by many people either in open water, leisure clubs or public swimming pools.

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Aspire Channel Swimming Challenge

Challenge your self to Swim the distance of the English Channel. 22 miles over 12 weeks in your local pool.

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