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Christmas Presents

Advice for women

“Dear reader, when you swim, do not go about like a floating coffin, but be cheerful, enjoy yourself.” Jenny Landreth, author of Swell, A Waterbiography, explores the advice given to female swimmers in the 19th century
Ladies, take care of your luxurious tresses before entering the water, and also watch out for wardrobe malfunctions

Writing a book that has an element of social history, I spent quite a lot of time scratching round in the dust of old documents. Some of these documents were dry in every sense, or written in such obfuscating language my eyes would almost rebel against reading them. But every now and again I’d turn up a little bit of treasure. This treasure might not look how you’d expect; for me, it was not always found in the showiest, most glittering writing, or the earthshattering philosophical truth. Sometimes, what I found to be treasure were a few words that gave me a fantastic image, or a glimpse beyond what I was expecting.

It was always a bonus if it made me laugh. Like this one sentence I found in an educational publication produced in 1865. The snappily-titled Ladies National Association for the Diffusion of Sanitary Knowledge were essentially a bunch of educated upper-class women trying to improve the lot of poorer, workingclass women via a series of invigorating pamphlets. It might sound, well, dreadful – patronising and privileged – and in lots of senses they weren’t very progressive; they perpetuated the idea that women should stay in their lane as home-makers and child-bearers. But their intentions were pretty solid, and alongside stuff around the health of mothers and the benefits of fresh air, they produced 14 pages on Why Do Women Not Swim.

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About Outdoor Swimmer

Welcome to our training special! Whether you have signed up for your first open water event or are planning an endurance challenge we have a plan for you – turn to page 44 for our one mile, 5k and 10k training schedules. We also have an intensive 10k DIY training camp for more advanced swimmers, as well as advice on how to successfully swim 24 miles in 24 hours and train for a swimrun event. Plus, our resident Olympian Cassie Patten answers your training queries and Total Immersion head coach Terry Laughlin trains your brain as well as your body. And if you haven’t yet signed up to an event to train for, check out our full listings starting on page 80. Outdoor swimming isn’t all about chasing that PB though. We hear from self-confessed dipper Joe Minihane about how wild swimming helped cure his anxiety and Ella Foote swims with Tessa Wardley, the author of a new book on mindfulness and swimming. And Jenny Landreth delves into the history books to explore the advice given to female swimmers in the 19th century. Enjoy the magazine and happy swimming.
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