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Christmas Presents

TAKING THE ROUGH WITH THE SMOOTH

In the final part of our series on freestyle swimming, Terry Laughlin looks at how to cope and keep calm in adverse conditions

In June 2002, I swam my first 28.5-mile Manhattan Island Marathon. The first half was a relative breeze, propelled up the East River by a flood tide and a tailwind, and enjoying relatively placid conditions in the narrow Harlem River. Conditions changed dramatically after we swam through Spuyten Duyvil and entered the broad Hudson River. A strong ebb tide butting heads with a 20-knot north wind plus wakes from heavy river traffic made it feel like swimming in a washing machine. For 30 minutes every stroke was a struggle – not only battered by waves, but pawing helplessly for a grip in the churning water.

But during the calm of a feeding stop, it occurred to me that while I might not be able to change external conditions, I might be able to reframe them. “It’s only water,” I told myself.

“If I make myself long and ‘slippery,’ it should just wash over me, rather than knock me around.” Within minutes, I felt a ‘cocoon of calm’ descend, which I was able to sustain for the remaining 13 miles. The water did indeed feel as if it was moving around me rather than moving me around. The intense focus required to maintain that feeling for three hours produced such a pleasurable ‘flow state’ that I was almost sorry to see it end as the finish came into view.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

Welcome to the Christmas issue. This month we talk to English Channel record holder Becky Lewis about her seven crossings (and counting!) and to Beth French about her plan to complete the Oceans Seven in one year, despite suffering from ME. Have you ever wanted to swim an Ice Mile? We have expert advice on how to train safely for one of swimming's most extreme challenges. And if you like a bit of trail running with your outdoor swimming, we take an in-depth look at the endurance sport of swimrun. We have inspiring travel features on Italy, Scotland and the French Riviera. And as it's Christmas we have some delicious cake recipes to try! Plus all the usual training advice and sessions, news, interviews, inspirational stories and event listings for 2016.
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