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Thursday, 27 August 2015

MS and the open water - ANNA JACKSON

MS and the open water - ANNA JACKSON

When i first met Anna, she was almost grey with nerves but these were accompanied by a huge grin and a babble of words that fell out of her mouth with abundance. Accompanied by her mum Sue..Anna was here to have a lesson, her first in open water swimming.

We has talked on the phone, Anna's great sense of humour even brighter in person, her 'can do, will do' attitude is infectious. Anna has a goal, to swim 500m in the Great North Swim. My goal, to give her the skills to enable her to do it.

Devising a plan to get Anna into her wetsuit, consisted with alot of tugging, pulling and pushing but we got there...subsequent fittings got easier as we perfected it....with me apologising constantly for potentially nipping her skin...Mum however squeezed into her wetsuit in no time at all...if anyone had heard the banter not to mention a few choice words in the changing rooms at Ellerton the would have thought we were killing her..but like i say we got there in the end with no blood spilt!

Wetsuits on...water temp...a tad chilly!!! Anna safely in her driving it (not so safe!) we headed the short distance to the jetty, next feat, getting the gloves and goggles on! That done (no broken fingers...phew!) and it was a gentle manoeuvre to get Anna to the steps. Carefully making her way into the water, the coolness taking her breath, the smile even bigger...she was in...and loving it. Taking Anna through the basics of acclimatisation .....her mum sliding in the water beside her, the water really was 'fresh' shall we say! This was followed by teaching Anna how to make perfect use of her wetsuit and allow it to do its job after all that is what they are there for.

Thankfully the sun was shining adding to the open water experience...sunny days can really make a difference especially when the water is 'fresh'. Bringing Anna round to the side of the jetty, one of the biggest issues we found was returning her legs to the floor, Not only were we fighting the buoyancy of the wetsuit but Anna's MS meant that at times certain parts of her body decide not to play ball, it was a scenario that was to be repeated many times...thankfully Anna did not mind us manhandling her into various positions! A short swim this time just to get her using to moving in the wetsuit and the water conditions and it was back to the changing rooms...not before almost tipping her out of the  wheelchair twice over the bumps....clearly need practice there!!!

A shivering Anna was placed under the showers, her grin bigger than ever, eyes shining ....but in need of warm clothing and a hot to get the wetsuit off without pinching the skin, causing bruises or knocking her the end it was decided...just go for it!!! Firmly placed on the benches and pretty much shoved into clothing and we were done.

At home it was for me to devise a cunning plan of action to ensure that Anna not only achieves her goal but that she does it with as much ease as possible ...and more importantly that she enjoys it! Plan of action decided, Anna would have a team in the water with her to make sure that she stays on track, one of the difficulties we faced was enabling Anna to swim in a straight line while at the same time now crowding her and impeding her swim. The helpers i decided would be at hip level, close enough to react and get her back on track but far enough away that she had the freedom in the water that she needed. Mum Sue, was to be one of those assisting in the water and it was ideal that she was there every swim so that the technique could be practised and perfected. Anna was to ignore all touching of her legs unless we actually grabbed her to stop her and this would only be done as a safety aspect, the helpers were to gently push Anna in the required direction, touching her only from hip to shoulder.

The MS that Anna has is progressive, she was diagnosed 11 years ago and does she let it stop her...does she heck..for her life is game on, to fit as much in as possible and to make it as magical as possible! The MS as you can imagine tires her out so not only was i getting her used to swimming but for a while until her tolerance rose we had limited in-water time before she became to tired to swim...a visual sign that we came to recognise was the failing of one arm to rise out of the water

Another feature is that Anna struggles to raise her head out of the water to breath...i did tell her that breathing was optional but i didn't think she would take it so the length of time increased in the water so did the distances that she could achieve and over time she was getting closer to our target distance of 500 metres! As with all people we have good days and bad days, thankfully the bad days were rare but Anna's determination won out and every time regardless she got into the wetsuit and into the water. John the lake owner avidly followed her progress, he is proud of the swimmers that use the lake and takes an active interest in their success, every week an update of her progress was given and every week the nod and smile of a happy man was given!

With the days and months passing fast we were now only left with a matter of weeks to ensure success, Anna and Sue turned up at the lake in fresh, determined mode..we were game on for a serious distance swim. The weather was bright and the water great, a slight breeze to add to the fun. Wetsuit donned and into the water she went....the same grin on her face as from the start of her coaching, the water it seems had worked its magic on her and she was hooked! With me suited up but on the jetty, Sue in the water and Anna with a fierce look of determination on her face, instruction was given and off she went, today her body as strong as her mind. Soon she was eating up the distance in the water as easily as can be. Turning to breath with mum supporting her head so she could grab valuable oxygen before spinning herself over and regaining balance so she could carry on swimming. Once tired we pushed on til we were close to the distance then it was out and into the showers...Anna in mischievous mode buoyed on by her latest success!

Heading to the Langdale Chase Hotel, owned by close friend Thomas  G Noblett (himself a channel swimmer and infamously known as the Gladiator), i wanted Anna to have a swim in Windermere not far from the actual swim venue itself. Entering any event can be daunting especially as the 'big  day' approaches and i find it best to get people in the lake to dispel many of the anxieties they may have.  The day was not the best, wind making the water choppy, a rather grey affair to be honest. A quick cup of tea to warm up in preparation to swim and it was kit on and down to the waters edge were we were met by a rather fine boat moored up, its owner clearly curious at our antics.

Getting as quickly as we could the water had a bite to it, there was no hanging around bobbing and chatting to be done, we had a job to do. Swimming in a straight line without marker buoys to aid us was fab fun...lots of nudging to be done and a new heightened awareness of the task in hand was given to all...the big day was not that far off!!!! Getting changed in the breeze was fun...Anna naturally took it all in her stride as she sat shivering and grinning whilst snuggled up in the warmth of her Dryrobe!

Pretty soon the BIG DAY was upon us, unfortunately i was running a swim course so could not be there to support  Anna, but i knew that she had her team around her to support didn't stop me being as excited as a kitten with a new ball of string to play with...Anna had promised to text the minute she has finished...her start time was 9am...i kept checking the Great North Swim website for results...and then the text.....she DID IT, 47:49 minutes....sooooo proud of her. My swim class knew the result too by the grin and in support a round of cheering which i hope she could hear!!! 

I managed to speak briefly to a clearly shattered Anna later that day....she is what is she doing now...well clearly addicted...her and mum have entered more and more events...there literally is no stopping her!!! She has completed the Derwent Epic followed by the Coniston Epic...!!!

Anna will be swimming the Great Scottish Swim in Loch Lomond this Saturday. (29th August)....she will nail it that is a given....don't forget you can help by donating to her Just giving page (link at the top of this page)......what swimmy adventures will she do this space...there's more to come!!!!

Good luck my smily friend xx

Where there is water there is life!!!!

Monday, 4 May 2015

H20 Magazine - lets support it!!!

Hi Guys,

H2open magazine is the bible of magazines for all open water swimmers....lets support its endeavour with VirginMedia Business!!!


Thursday, 19 March 2015

Wild about Swimming now offers the RLSS National water safety management programme qualification - if you want one run in your area please contact me so we can arrange it

Tuesday, 10 March 2015



As the passion for open water grows so does the safety concerns for those participating. Products are being produced aim at swimmer visibility, and these from the feedback given have both their good and bad points i suppose such as  most things in life do.

But what of those of us who dont want to announce to the world that we are in the water, who swim solo, in pairs or  small groups, who take to waters others would consider too cold or too bouncy. Those of us who have swam for years in the great outdoors and for whom the announcement of us being in the water is too much.  What of those of us who ask friends and family to boat or kayak for us while we attempt vast distances, whilst we rely on them for our safety, what of theirs.

Having researched safety devises on the market that would best suit my needs i found RESTUBE (  A nifty little package that suits me down to the ground, a velcro'ed pouch housing all i would need for self rescue, rescue and visibility should i require  it. Activated by the pull of a cord, a gas propelled flotation rescue tube is expelled. It also has the advantage that it can be activated by others in or on the water if i can not  manage myself.

The first time it was used was purely as a test, would it deploy when needed, how fast and could you effectively either self rescue or be rescued using it?

The venue chosen, Ellerton Lake near Richmond North Yorkshire where i tend to coach from, the weather very windy and the water nicely choppy. A willing model placed the belt around her waste and adjusted it accordingly to ensure a perfect but not overly tight fit. In she jumped and after swimming around for a bit managed to find herself some lovely deep choppy water.

The beauty of swimming in deep choppy water on a day like today is that the tube really does get put to the test, can she self rescue, can we see her in the water, and can she be rescued if necessary. Putting on the device is simple a strong adjustable belt with the pack attached which can be mounted either vertically or horizontally for maximum comfort to the user.

On my signal she deployed the device, no loud noises, i was worried about the inflatable tube coming up at such a speed that it may injure the swimmer whilst in the water. I need not have worried, the tube inflated with swift speed but equally without enough force to cause harm. Bright yellow in colour and solid enough that it could support her body weight while she gained her breath.

Breath gained our willing model was able then use the RESTUBE, holding it in a variety of ways to ensure that she could safely get back to the bank of the lake. Impressed, we certainly were, even more so when it came to packing it up, easy to follow instructions printed on the tube showed the correct method of returning the tube to the pouch, affixing another gas cannister was simple (thankfully!).

Since proving it can actually do what it says on the tin, i have taken it everywhere with me - yes you can take them on planes (4 canisters can be taken - but keep yourself up to date by checking the IATA regulations in case they change )

I am happy to show it to my swimmers, my coaches, to potential coaches, to qualification awarding bodies, school and pretty much anyone involved in an aquatic environment, it is compact, easy to use design is an instant hit across the board.

I love that the tubes don't need to be inflated until such time as required, for those that like the security of swimming in the open water but don't always want to be visible to any others other than their spotter these are ideal. They can be used by those on boats, kayakers, group leaders, divers, paddle boards,  rescue technicians, schools, boaters, well  in fact their uses are endless if you are in, on or around water.

As an open water swimmer for me i love swimming ANYWHERE outside and all year round, knowing that i can swim anonymously if i desire - i can, if i wish to be seen, say for example on bodies of water where other users such at boats my frequent - i can, but most importantly, it does allow self and assisted rescue should i need it. Highly recommended and a product that i for one always have in my swim you have no doubt heard me say so many times...Happy Swimming,  - with RESTUBE that is guaranteed!

Saturday, 24 January 2015

New Ice miler!!!!!

Wild about swimming is so proud to announce that Kate Sunley has been confirmed by the International Ice Swimming Association as an ICE MILER!!!!!

HUGE Congratulations to you Kate, the worlds first female disabled icemiler!!!! Thanks to all the crew and helpers on the day  xx

Kate with the world first and only male disabled swimmer Jonty Warneken....two world firsts for Wild about swimming and the International Ice Swimming Association!!!!

Countryfile video

At last the long awaited (only because i couldn't figure out how to load it!!!!) video of me on Countryfile with TV presenter Julia Bradbury.

Watch from about 5:04....happy view folks :)

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Ice breaking!!!

Ice Breaking!!!

The temperatures have changed again....and today at the lake a nice layer of ice covered most of it.....did it put us off.....NO!!!!

The feet and hands went instantly numb but that didn't put us off playing with the ice. One intrepid swimmer  John, even coming up from underneath to raise a fist in honour of winter swimming. 

For all of you that love the summer swimming...the ice swimming is amazing too...come and have a go!!!