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It was Monday morning 8am, and there was nobody in the sea.

I didn’t know if actual swimming was a thing on this beach, but I didn’t care.

When I parked the car I walked past a shop that had snorkelling masks, and so I grabbed that along with a bottle of water.

I’d chosen the worst stretch of beach on Rhodes I think.

Pebbly, rough waves, overlooked by massive hotels, but at that point, I didn’t know what the alternatives were.

I stripped. Hobbled towards the sea, sharp stones hurting my feet with each step…and then I was in. The sun was shining. I was in the sea. I was crying.

I didn’t know that I would cry, or even why it was that it was happening.

Maybe I didn’t realise how much I needed it.

I’ve never been a great swimmer, and if truth be told I do find it a bit boring. But over the years I’ve dabbled. I’ve done a couple of triathlons, and I did swimathon a 1.5K swim a few years ago, but open water swimming has never really been my thing.

I’ve had to have lessons as an adult to improve my stroke. Some normal adult type ones at my local baths, and then some more tailored for Triathlon etc

The last lesson I had was with Sarah from Swimmingly…and OMG!!

I saw progress on the day of the lesson at the Aquatic Centre, and in the weeks following, but I know without a shadow of doubt, that 90 minutes has changed my life.

I remember back when I could literally only do one 50 meter length, and I’d have to resort back to breaststroke to catch my breath, when in fact it was nothing to do with my fitness and everything about my technique.

But back to Rhodes.

I am in Greece for 8 weeks, it started off as a 3 week trip to write my next book Leading from the Back, and then I realised how much I needed a break, and then the UK lockdown was announced and I decided to stay.

I didn’t even think I’d get into swimming here.

I have 3 options, outfit wise to choose from, and none of them ideal.

  • A red cutsie swim suit best suited to lounging on a sun bed
  • A black swimsuit which has no boob support, and again is probably designed for posing rather than swimming
  • And a mix and match bikini…only the top isn’t actually a bikini top, but rather a bralet from primark…but actually this is probably my fav choice

But anyway I have been swimming.

Most days.

Prior to the Greek lockdown I had been exploring the island and finding the best beaches for swimming, my favourite by far is Traganou beach, just along from the infamous Faliraki, it goes on for miles and miles, and although the beach is pebbly and has no real amenities, its perfect for swimming as there is a massive ledge, meaning you can be two meters from the shore, but you are in super deep water…plus its always empty.

I started off being able to swim 300 yards, and I have built it up to my longest effort of 1400 which took me just over an hour to do…my goal before I leave is to swim a mile.

What I am finding so enjoyable is the headspace it gives me, and how my body feels in this weightless state, unlike how it did slogging around a 5K running route yesterday in the midday sun.

I feel like Moana.

Every day I am called to the sea.

I’m not sure how I will cope when I go home. Swimming in the docks doesn’t have quite the same attraction.

I have had so much time to think about the last year while being out here, but not only that, the last decade. The Fat Girls Guide to Running blog turned 10 this year, imagine that…a decade of writing about sport in a plus size body.

The writing of my book, which although is not a running book, more a business book, had given me time to reflect on the journey, the highs and the lows, and what it was I was chasing all those years.

FREEDOM.

Isn’t that what we all want to some extent. Which is what makes whats going on in the world so difficult right now. Not only the freedoms that have been taken away from us, but how we didn’t appreciate some of them in the first place.

Learning to do more of what you love is the real lesson for me. Caring less about what other people think than what you think. Leading with your heart, enjoying the moment, finding the adventure.

I will be back in December just in time for my Countdown to Christmas Challenge (you can register here) and I may look into one of those crazy Christmas day swims…maybe folks, I said maybe.

Have a wonderful week, and find those moments of freedom and adventure where you can xxx

PS. I am currently working on a 10 year anniversary book for TFTR, you are going to love it xxx

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