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Guest blog: Preparing for your first open water swim

Photo of Laura MayToday's guest blog is from Laura May, our Communications Manager, who is taking on the Swim Serpentine this Autumn with #TeamPurple. This is Laura's first ever open water swim, so here she shares some of her 'newbie swimmer' top tips...

Last year I went along to the Swim Serpentine to cheer on our amazing supporters as they took part - I was blown away. The festival atmosphere and the fantastic efforts of all the swimmers really inspired me. 

As a rule, I'm not one for sporting activities. Last time I did some fundraising for MS-UK I sat in a bath of baked beans - it didn't exactly need high levels of fitness! But that was some years ago and I felt it was time for a new challenge so I decided to take on the Swim Serpentine this year. As I work at MS-UK, I know that every penny makes a real difference to people affected by multiple sclerosis (MS). I also get to meet people affected by this condition in lots of different ways and I am always so in awe of people who live life to the full with MS. It feels great to give something back by fundraising, but also it feels great personally to take on something new. 

However, it's not all plain sailing when you take the plunge, so here are my top tips for new open water swimmers...

  • Accessorise, accessorise, accessorise. You need a swimming hat, ear plugs and goggles to get you started. I actually went and got some prescription goggles from my opticians which are excellent. If you struggle with the cold, swimming gloves and socks are a must. When you go for your first open water swim, remember to take flip flops too...the drive home for me with soggy trainers was not pleasant!
  • Don't just stick to the pool. It's really important to try swimming in the open water before the big event arrives. I found it so different swimming outside, with tides and wind and rain all round you. It's actually lovely being out in the open air, but more importantly it will prepare you for the big day when all sorts of nice creatures and plants will be touching you!
  • Photo of legsMake sure your wetsuit fits. I learnt this the hard way by purchasing a wet suit a size bigger that I needed. It meant I was really chaffed on the back of my legs when it bunched up - check out the photo to see just how bad it was!
  • Ask other people to encourage you. I found it really hard to get motivated to actually go out and swim. But I spoke with the MS-UK fundraising team who said 'you can do it' and who gave me a massive cheer the day after I swam my first one mile in open water. My partner keeps suggesting I go for a swim and it helps me motivate myself to leave the comfort of my sofa. My friends and family and colleagues all keep pushing me as the event draws ever closer and I feel excited to go out swimming because I know I'm raising so much for MS-UK
  • Listen to the experts. MS-UK have been brilliant at directing swimmers to local coaches, open water venues and top tips. At first I was reluctant to be told 'how to swim' but I have now learnt that all the advice is worth listening to and you can take what you need and leave what you don't

There are so many more tips that other swimmers could share, but here's my top five. For everyone taking on the Swim Serpentine this year, good luck and I will see you there.

Just keep swimming!

Laura 

Visit Laura's fundraising page to read her whole story