Toes dangling over the edge and your hair squeezed into a silicone cap. Is there anything more daunting than diving headfirst into a (usually bracingly cold) pool? Three Refinery29 staffers have faced this fear head-on and learned to love swimming just as much as the endorphins that follow.
There’s Serena, who admittedly never felt comfortable in a swimsuit during sports classes at school. After a Caribbean holiday where she abandoned the notion of a perfect 'beach body', she discovered – much to her surprise – that she loves the sport. The confidence she achieved cutting through the waves has now impacted her life outside the water, too.
Likewise, Alrionne never saw herself becoming a swimmer. But aged 25 she’s found herself taking classes. Though still stuck in the shallow end, she’s already crossing off the calendar days to her next beach break.
And then there’s Clare, a naturally gifted swimmer. Her childhood was marked by chlorine and diving into the deep end. After a family tragedy, she pulled on a swimming costume, submerged herself in the water and found solace.
These three women’s swimming experiences have one thing in common: the support of simple, structured and stylish swimwear from Speedo, who have created both chic and performance enhancing swimsuits that'll stand the test of time and give you the confidence, like these women, to head into the water.
Serena, R29 Creative Assistant
Growing up, no one would have described me as a confident swimmer. At secondary school we had a few lessons but, like most girls aged 13, I never felt comfortable being in a swimsuit in front of the boys in my class. Plus, those swimming caps did nothing for my curly hair. Inevitably those insecurities niggled away and impacted how much I took in of the lessons.
If I ever swam it would only be on the occasional family holiday. In this safer space, without my classmates watching, it felt less daunting and I was able to actually enjoy being in the water with my little sister. I even found myself teaching her the little I’d learned in swimming lessons.
As I grew older I eventually overcame an irrational fear of drowning that was always in the back of my mind whenever I got near the deep end. I started to care less about other people watching me by the pool and judging me. Sure I could now focus on my fitness but I also loved the opportunity to shop for a wardrobe of swimsuits and bikinis.
Recently I went to Barbados and fell totally in love with the ocean. Don’t get me wrong, you won’t catch me swimming across the English Channel anytime soon, but I really do enjoy being in the water any chance I get. And as for swimming caps, I’m finally coming round to those, too.
I used to think that the 15 minutes of fun I had in the sea wasn’t worth the hours it took to re-straighten my hair the next day. Now? I have fallen in love with swimming and embraced my natural curls. I’m not just more confident in the water but more confident in almost every aspect of my life. It’s funny: until I tested myself among the waves, I didn’t know what I was missing out on.
Clare, R29 Client Services Manager
There are few better feelings than the electrifying adrenaline you get when you finally achieve something you’ve worked hard for. My first memorable taste of it was aged 9.
After years of Saturday morning swimming lessons and countless belly flops, I finally achieved the perfect dive at the end of class. I emerged from the water, coughing and spluttering with delight, I could hear my parents cheering from the side. A week of impatience and excitement followed until Saturday morning at 9am, when I dove straight into the deep end in a frilly pink Speedo. After that tremendous dive, the cold, rainy winter mornings spent sulking in my dad’s car on the way to the pool, wishing I were still in bed, were suddenly worth it.
Some things haven’t changed; I am still not a morning person and my favourite way to start a swim is still with a dive straight in at the deep end. But sadly, my lovely dad is no longer around to cheer from the side. Last year I lost him to a sudden illness that threw my life into disarray; my mood plummeted, my anxiety soared, and I lost all interest in exercise. I missed the endorphins but couldn't find the motivation to dive back in.
I decided to sign up for Swim Serpentine to fundraise for Dementia Revolution to give myself the drive I needed to start training again. For some (myself included), wearing a swimsuit in a public space is daunting, but the Speedo Opalweb made me feel invincible. The curve enhancing fabric gave me the security I needed.
Feeling safe in my swimsuit, my first training swim was revitalising and I realised how crucial this exercise was to my grieving process. After months of feeling sluggish, I felt powerful in the water. I was using my mind and body to propel myself forward at a time when I didn’t know how to move forward with my life. The water challenged me but was gentle on me, and accepted whatever level I was at.
Swimming reinvigorated me; it helped me tackle grief and as a result move forward with my life again. You could say I choose to swim instead of drowning.
Alrionne, R29 Executive Assistant
If I’m honest, swimming never really interested me. Perhaps it was something to do with London’s municipal pools. But this changed after a recent trip to the Philippines, where I had the chance to swim in clear, warm water unfettered by fast and slow lanes, swimming caps and public showers.
I’ve never been a strong swimmer. In fact, my lack of ability has left me the butt of jokes with friends whenever we've gone on holiday. I’m the friend that jumps off the boat with a life jacket on or remains on the sand grasping everyone’s piña coladas in one hand and taking snaps with the other. I would swear I was living my best life but not being confident in the water has always played on my mind.
I’m over feeling anxious about the water. So in 2019, aged 25, I've decided to take swimming lessons. I know I’ll never be Kate Bosworth in Blue Crush but after almost drowning twice and lifeguards having to swoop in to save me, I think it might be for the best (for everyone).
As someone who doesn’t like to sweat, the idea of using water pressure to work out has always appealed. And boy is it a workout. Last year you’d be more likely to find me in a dance class than the deep end, but in fact the two aren’t all that different. It’s not just the endorphin rush that’s the same but the coordination and stamina required too.
There’s really nothing quite like putting your mind to something and then actually ticking it off your to-do list. Although I’ve now had two months of regular classes and I’m still stuck at the shallow end, I can’t wait to surprise my girls this summer with my new and improved backstroke...and some sick swimsuits.