We always love chatting to D&B customers and friends about all things swimming, swimwear, mental health and more.
Recently we caught up 27 year old nature and outdoor sport fanatic, Alex, who has recently moved to Cumbria to escape the city rat race and immerse herself in the British countryside.
We love Alex's way with words and her candid perspective on the world. Here's what she had to say...
Alex, thanks so much for taking the time to talk with us.
We know you've recently left the busy city to start a new chapter. What have you got in store?
That's right - having left the seemingly dream career in wildlife filmmaking and the correspondingly detailed life plan behind I’m currently keeping busy by figuring out what to do next! One of my favourite things in the world is going on wild swimming adventures with my sister Libby (together we are Instagram’s Swimming Sisters).
We've been eagerly following yours and Libby's adventures for some time! How often do you swim and where?
How much I swim varies depending on what else is going on in my life, but it’s never as much as I’d like to. When I was training for a half iron-distance triathlon earlier in the year, I swam 3 times a week, whereas now I’m busy settling into a new home and life it can be just once a fortnight. Nowadays when I swim though it’s almost always in an incredible (and usually previously unexplored) outdoor location so feels worth more than many weeks of ploughing up and down a pool. And of course whenever I’m with Libby we try and fit in as much swimming as possible.
Do you remember when you first started swimming or what got you started?
I don’t really remember a time when I didn’t love being in the water, and some of my earliest memories are of my Grandpa patiently teaching me to swim (he got very upset when I got good enough to beat him several years later!) I trained with a local club for a while as a child and loved racing (except when I lost of course!), but didn’t have the foresight to see the point of monotonous hours swimming laps and eventually packed it in. A small part of me wishes I’d been more disciplined and kept training to see how far I could have taken it, but most of me is glad that I left and later rediscovered swimming for pleasure. There is so much more that I get out of swimming than just the thrill of going fast and winning races now.
What do you enjoy most about swimming?
How can I pick one thing?!? There is so much I love about swimming, and especially swimming outdoors – it really is a totally different experience, like trail running vs. road running. Even in a pool I find being immersed in water and the feeling of gliding forward when you hit a rhythm great for relaxing. And I like being good at it - and am bored enough with the “women are supposed to be falsely modest” routine to say it!
(We're glad to hear it!)
I feel in the water like my body is doing something it is suited to, there is a satisfying familiarity as my muscles move through the strokes, and I feel powerful.
With wild swimming the experience is so much richer. There’s the awe in seeing beautiful scenery from an otter’s-eye-view and I love that it makes me feel more part of the landscape and engaged with nature when I’m in the water. And though the shock of the cold isn’t entirely pleasant I like how alive it makes you feel. There’s something magical about the light when you swim outdoors too – the way it hits the bubbles as your fingers enter the water, creates rays stretching deep beneath you, or glows gold on the surface as you turn to breathe. When you add the joy of sharing an adventure with good friends and laughing like a child as you bob in the water, then it’s as close to total euphoria as I’ve found.
Do you swim mostly on your own or with others?
I always try to go on outdoor swims with other people. It’s nice to share the experience and I love the excitement of loading the car with swimming gear, post-swim snacks, and cheesy playlists to head off with friends on an adventure. Libby and I particularly enjoy taking people new to wild swimming on trips with us and seeing how much they love it (they’re always converted). While I’m a confident swimmer (and trained lifeguard) and sensible about where and when I swim, I feel it’s always safer to avoid swimming alone outdoors too.
And have you got a favourite swim or swim spot?
I love discovering new swim spots, either that I’ve been recommended by other swimmers or come across looking at maps or online reviews. And sometimes the best way to find amazing new swimming places is just to head off to walk/run a section of river, coast, or lake and see what you stumble upon. Libby and I seem to find new favourite places each time we go on swimming adventures together, and there are so many that would make the shortlist.
My current favourite (that will be hard to beat) is a river pool in the Lake District called Buckstone’s Jum. It’s got incredible views in all directions, an icy waterfall to be swept along by or jump into, and a beautiful hike up to it. Amazingly, Libby, our friend Sarah and I had it all to ourselves when we swam there recently and so decided to try skinny-dipping for the first time. After the initial embarrassment of undressing (narrowly avoiding some farmers going by on quadbikes!), it felt so natural to have nothing but water against our skin, and to swim naked and blissfully happy like were children again. The sun even came out for us too!
Lots of people talk about the mental benefits of swimming as well as the physical benefits - what are your thoughts on that?
The majority of reasons I swim are for the mental rather than physical benefits, and I’d say that’s true of Libby and most of the other wild swimmers we’ve met. I believe swimming is incredibly good for keeping your mind healthy and happy, especially when you add in the benefits of getting outdoors that wild swimming gives you. I’ve always been notoriously bad at relaxing and seem completely unable to do this effectively while sitting still. There are other sports that help me de-stress and unwind, but nothing allows me to calm my thoughts quite like swimming.
Swimming has been particularly useful to me recently when I’ve struggled with depression among a period of life upheaval and uncertainty. And it was actually a period of poor mental health that first drew Libby to swimming after years of feeling unconfident in the water. While it was really difficult to see my sister hit hard times and to go through them myself, I’m also glad that we have done. Otherwise it may not have given us such a strongly shared love of swimming that has become so important to us both.
What attracted you to Deakin and Blue?
I initially loved that Deakin and Blue’s Instagram posts celebrated a mix of classic style, feminine beauty and power, and a love for the water. And when their swimsuit range appeared it seemed to fit perfectly with that. It’s nice to feel connected with a brand and their values even before the products are available, and I love that it promotes ‘real’ women and beauty.
Which Deakin and Blue swimwear do you own?
I have the Lily print bikini top with navy regular briefs. I wear size 10 bottoms and a 12 Hepburn top. I love that you can mix and match block colour with a striking print and have always been a fan of bold, colourful flower prints rather than dainty floral ones.
And how do you feel in your Deakin and Blue swimwear?
Supported and confident, but also attractive and colourful. While I sadly am without the ample bust that the brand is becoming known for being well suited for, I do like that it feels very supportive in the top. I feel like I could use it happily for a swim-to-bike training session or even run in it to swimming spots.
And how is your Deakin and Blue swimwear different to anything else you have swum in?
Most of my swimwear is either functional and boring, or pretty but you can’t swim fast (let alone dive in without fear of embarrassment) wearing it. I feel like my Deakin and Blue bikini is pretty enough to feel feminine and want to wear it on the beach, but supportive enough that I could happily dive, run, jump and swim all day in it.
Any final words/thoughts/messages to friends and fans of Deakin and Blue?
I think it’s brilliant that Deakin and Blue are encouraging more women into swimming with their gorgeous costumes and positive messages. I really do believe that swimming has so much to offer women if we have the confidence to dive in (pun intended).
You don’t have to be good (whoever decides what that is!) at swimming to benefit from it and the joy is that anyone can give it a go. Whatever your age, shape, size, sporting prowess, injuries etc. water has the wonderful benefit of being physically as well as mentally supportive, so a little bit of guidance will get even the least confident swimmer able to enjoy the water. And wild swimming is a particularly inclusive form of swimming as whether you choose to swim 5km or drift 50m while enjoying the view, you can find your own way to enjoy it.
Increasingly there is a sisterhood of incredible women out there enjoying swimming in many ways and it’s great that there are now more brands and platforms like Deakin and Blue celebrating that. Keep up the good work!
I'm not sure how we can possibly follow that rallying cry to women everywhere to get in the water. Perfectly put. Thanks for talking with us, Alex.
Are you interested in chatting to us about your experience of swimming and swimwear for our series? Get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. And in the meantime, keep an eye out for the next post in our series Real Women Wear D&B.