It might be all icy water and hot cups of coffee at the moment, but the newly formed Cold Water Swimming Club (AKA the Orcas) are looking forward to brighter days.
Taking early morning dips in Jesus Green Lido on Sundays the club members say the swimming clears their heads and sets them up for the day.
When it comes to inspiration for a name they didn’t have to look far said third year Natural Sciences (Natsci) undergraduate Gabi Regan-Edwards.
They looked at the College colours and then the answer was obvious she said with succinct pride: “It’s a black and white swimming thing.”
Inspiration to form the society in Michaelmas Term (alongside vice-chairs Isobel Sutherland and Ella Wood) came from holiday activities including a bracing sea swim on New Years Day and a swim around Burgh Island in Devon.
Gabi said: “That was quite a challenge but I really enjoyed it and when I came back I suggested outdoor swimming to a few friends.
“A small group of us started going to the lido on Jesus Green. It’s such a great little community. You meet people from outside the university bubble and have some great conversations.”
Vice-Chair Isobel agrees: “I had been open-water swimming over the summer. That experience was something I wanted to bring back to College with me.
“The other swimmer in the lido are, like us, perhaps a bit mad, but you get so much out of it. The staff there are also fantastic.”
The attractions are obvious says Gabi, despite the fact there are sometimes icicles on the pool steps.
“You are, when swimming, completely in that moment and your brain cannot focus on anything else. I rowed which is a bit like that but I found that my brain could still be distracted back to work. When in the water you have to concentrate on your breathing, on whether you can stay in the water a little longer or whether it’s time to get out and afterwards that sense of your own body and looking after it lingers.”
Swims can last half an hour of five minutes and be a length or 10, depending on the conditions.
Unlike other sports you don’t have to stick to a formula or feel pressure to perform. “You can go along and decide not to swim and just meet up on the café: it’s really relaxed,” said Gabi.
The feeling of post-swimming euphoria can really make your day agree Gabi and Isobel: “Our smiles are wide and I was skipping back to breakfast after our swim on Sunday,” said Gabi.
“I think it has helped me with work and my wellbeing,” said Gabi.
The club meets on a Sunday at 9.30am. Future plans may include swims in the lake at Milton County Park as the weather warms.