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Returning to the Henley Mile

Author Bio:

Katie is a food, fitness & mental health blogger. You can find out more about her and her adventures at Cake vs Scales.


Henley will always hold a special place in my heart, as it was the first open water swimming event I attended. As it was my first OWS event I opted for the half mile swim, this distance filled me with thoughts of “What on earth have I got myself into?” and “Can I even do this, will I be able to swim 800m?”. Fast forward a year, open water swimming has stolen a little piece of my heart. Therefore, it’s only natural that I’m returning again and with the new objective of swimming the full Henley Mile.


Late last year I had surgery and had to take a 3 month break from exercise, which was mentally and physically tough. February this year saw my return to the pool and finally in May, the temperatures were warm enough for me to return to the open water. I won’t deny, returning to the pool was tough, especially as my surgery was on my upper body. To start, I took some advice and stuck to a steady 10/15 minutes of swimming over a few weeks to allow my muscles to re-adjust to the movement. Once I had got back into the flow of swimming, the natural choice for myself was to set a goal.  So why not go back to where it started? Henley Swimming Festival anyone?



Finally the day to return to Boxend Park (our local open water swimming venue) had come.  I prefer swimming outside because I find the open space easier to get into a flow and much more motivating as I can set little goals to meet.  i.e. swimming from buoy to buoy.  That’s not to say that swimming in the freezing cold water and battling with the visual limitations of it being a foggy morning made for an easy return. Yet, I’m very much of the opinion that tough training swims allow me to appreciate the days when the sun is shining, the water is comfortable and everything feels like it’s falling into place.


From a mental health point of view, I’ve previously written about how open water swimming improves my mind set and this trail of thought certainly hasn’t changed.  I have always been anxious about going swimming without my husband, it’s a kind of safety net.  This last month I left my husband at home and went open water swimming on my own.  Obviously I wasn’t completely on my own, the lake was full of other swimmers. I found that on the day I swam with confidence; I was completely happy in my own company and even sat watching others in the early morning breeze after I’d completed my swim.


My go to stroke is breaststroke, to me breaststroke seems to use less energy and allows me to recover on the go.  I’m fully aware that to evolve, I’ve got to be more open minded about making a change and despite not being competitive, being lapped constantly can be a little demoralising.


I’ve been looking into how to improve my technique, my biggest problem being sinking legs. Also I have developed a dislike to putting my head under water.  Overcoming this hurdle will undoubtedly improve my swimming technique, which is far from efficient.


With only a few weeks until I swim a mile at Henley, I’m going to be putting in the extra time in the pool as well as my weekend open water swims.  Hopefully giving me more time to become more proficient in the water.  I can’t wait to see what the 2019 event has in store for me.