Saturday 20 July 2019

Freezing is pleasing for Lisa and winter swimmers

NO COLD FEET HERE: Lisa Regan (33) prepares to take the plunge into the icy waters of Galway Bay at Blackrock in Salthill. Photo: Andrew Downes
NO COLD FEET HERE: Lisa Regan (33) prepares to take the plunge into the icy waters of Galway Bay at Blackrock in Salthill. Photo: Andrew Downes

Alan O'Keeffe

Sleet, rain and icy winds made it look like madness to strip off and plunge into the wintry waters of Galway Bay.

But for Lisa Regan and her kindred spirits, it makes the morning great.

Met Eireann warned the public all last week that Thursday was going to be very cold indeed.

But the yellow cold alert failed to deter Lisa whose bravery in a bikini was put to the test when she walked into the sea at Blackrock in Salthill.

"It's not so much a physical thing but a mental thing," said the Galway woman.

"Swimming in the sea in winter is the most grounding thing you will do in your day. It's absolutely wonderful, it's totally re-connecting."

Up to 50 people brave the seawater at Blackrock every Sunday morning in winter, she added.

"The great thing about sea swimming in winter is there is a great community doing it. You don't have to go with anybody because when you go down to swim here in Blackrock in Galway, or at the Forty Foot in Dublin, everyone is so friendly," Lisa said.

"Blackrock on a Sunday morning can be thronged in wintertime - as busy as a nightclub."

At around 8am every day, she joins other swimmers who shrug off goose pimples to feel the shock of cold seawater.

Lisa (33) is among the youngest to swim on weekdays as there are many retirees and older women.

The hardy daily swimmers include an 85-year-old man and only about 10pc of them wear wetsuits.

She admitted that last Thursday's plunge was not the most enjoyable of the week.

"It was still fairly dark with a lot of sleet and heavy rain and the wind was very strong. A wave got me. I only stayed in for a minute. The air temperature was zero and the sea was 5C.

"The worst part of getting out of the water is the sting on your feet on the cold stones. Trying to get your socks on with cold hands and warming yourself is the hardest part, but I still felt great after it."

Lisa does weight-training at home before heading to the sea with her dog, Toby. Depending on how low the temperature is, her swims will last between 30 seconds and five minutes, with the key being not to get too cold.

Lisa, who owns her own public relations business, has her winter swim friends - Julie Elwood, Pauline Staunton, Joanna Zalech, Mags Bohan, Jill Carroll and Sarah Casserley. Sharing a flask of tea or coffee on the beach can be "a beautiful treat" afterwards.

"People ask me if I'm cold but I just get dressed and feel my skin tingling and I feel on top of the world," she said.

Lisa added that her outdoor lifestyle had helped her avoid the usual colds and chest bugs every winter.

"There's something really simple about getting fresh air. Everyone is in front of their screens so much these days but getting out to breathe some fresh air is important," she said.

"When you get into the sea you realise we are all just little specks here on this earth.

"You go into that water and see how powerful it is. And you just change your whole state by letting it wash all over you and you say to yourself: 'I'm in the water now and this is brilliant and I'm taking control of my morning. Whatever happens today, happens'.

"You feel really powerful and also feel a great connection with nature. You swim, have a good chat with people, and head off to work in great form."

Sunday Independent

Editor's Choice

Also in Irish News