My guest on the podcast this week, Gilly, was someone I had never met before. Yet I felt so familiar with some of the swims she had done earlier this year, due to the amazing photographs her friend, James Kirby, took of her and submitted to Outdoor Swimmer magazine.
I looked at the snowy landscape and frozen lakes with envy and admiration, and knew that I wanted to speak to her to understand what that had felt like.
Gilly had been doing an alternative version of the R.E.D. challenge – which stands for ‘run every day’ and had committed to swimming outdoors every day in January.
I’ve got to admit, I was reassured to hear that it wasn’t easy every day. That Gilly can procrastinate a day away. That it was mentally quite hard. That she is human like the rest of us.
It can be too easy for us to assume that other people manage with ease the things we know we would find really difficult.
It was also lovely to hear about the people who she helped take their first step into winter swimming as part of the process, and what different people’s reaction was to achieving something they might have thought was impossible for them.
She talks about winter swimming as sailing close to the edge of what is possible, and peeping over the wall of the edge of comfort and glimpsing what is beyond. It is about pushing ourselves and testing and finding out what we are capable of.
Gilly also talks about what can happen to our lives when particularly difficult or tragic things happen. We can lock it away, close in on ourselves and have our world become smaller. Or we can look at it, process it, and allow the possibility that we will experience joy again. At some point. In the future.
She says we have to push hard to swim up to the light again.
To reach that flow state.
Things we talked about
All photos appear in Outdoor Swimmer magazine and are taken by James Kirby