A surplus of empty jam jars led to a meeting with the wonderful Kathryn Joy who answered a call-out on my Facebook page. She was keen to use them for her homemade plum jam.
Just like a stone dropped in a pond, the jars acted like a ripple effect on our conversation. When you catch up with someone you haven’t seen or worked with for a long time, the conversation usually starts with job and family life.
I knew Kathryn from my days of working as a Co-Headteacher. She worked alongside the school to support us to drive development in literacy. Kathryn usually met with my fellow Co-Head, so I was keen to catch up with her and find out what she was up to now. Kathryn now works as the international Teaching and Learning lead for Cambridge University Press. She is continuing with her passion to deliver high-quality training, support and development of teachers around the world.
As our conversation continued it became clear to me that Kathryn is a leader who shares many of my values. She is so curious about the world, creative in the way she thinks, shows courage in the decisions she makes, supports her community and embraces change.
Her courage stood out for me and in particular her recent foray into wild water swimming.
Encouraged by her daughter she had started wild water swimming in August in the outdoor ponds on Hampstead Heath. The more she swam the more she enjoyed the challenge of outdoor swimming. The visits became a regular Friday highlight with a group of friends.
Growing up in Cornwall, Kathryn was used to swimming in the sea in the summer. Her new habit made her much more adventurous venturing out on colder days as well as warm. Over the summer and into the autumn she swam in Devon, Cornwall, Margate, Whitstable and Copenhagen. It would be fair to say that Kathryn had been bitten by the wild water swimming bug!
So what are the benefits of wild water swimming? Wild Swimming a site dedicated to just that, shares the health benefits including physical and mental health. They state that ‘cold immersion soothes muscles aches, relieves depression and boosts the immune system.’ They talk about the ‘natural endorphin high that raises mood, elates the senses and creates an addictive urge to dive back in.’
Kathryn talked about such a feeling and told me how she felt it ‘activated her thinking’, clearing the head and allowing her to be more present in her life.
Wild Swimming also tells of the long term effects of regular wild water swimming and how the swims can ‘bring down blood pressure, reduce fat disposition, inhibit blood clotting and increase fertility and libido’. Who knew, those cold showers that were diagnosed for high libido seemed to be exacerbating the condition!!
Swim England note 6 health benefits of open water swimming.
Kathryn is clearly feeling the effects on her happiness levels. She talked about how calm she feels whilst swimming which is followed by an invigorating buzz post-swim.
I asked Kathryn whether she intended to keep going into the late autumn and possibly into the winter. Her plan when I interviewed her was that she would keep going once a week on a Friday. She had adapted to the drop in temperature and now wears gloves, hat and bootees whilst swimming. She has indeed kept up swimming each week in the sea.
Kathryn talked about one more benefit of wild water swimming. She called it ‘being at duck level’. Changing your perspective of the world by and seeing it through the eyes of another living thing or from a different view. ‘Duck view’, helped her stay in the present. All too often we as humans are doing things quickly, going from one thing to another. At duck level, we can slow the pace down.
All along the backwater,
Through the rushes tall,
Ducks are a-dabbling,
Up tails all!
Perspective, pace, perseverance and persistence.
A wonderful way to boost resilience and go with the flow.
Here are a few articles for anyone who is interested in finding out more about wild water swimming.