‘I completed the Swimathon in April as part of my local Naturist Group's regular swim session. I think I may be the only person to have done the Swimathon naked!’ writes Leann
Standing on the poolside wearing my purple Swimathon hat but no swimsuit, it occurs to me this is the opposite look to my regular public class - where I sport a range of costumes but rarely need a hat to control my short hair (I figure it will give me a boost if I ever have to race!) – The fully uniformed lifeguard wishes me luck, I check the time and push off on the first of 218 lengths.
I’ve been a member of my local swim with Leeds Naturist Group for a couple of years now – though, in truth, I normally spend more time relaxing in the steam room and chatting around the edge of the pool. When I realised that Swimathon were offering a MySwim option where participants could complete the challenge at a pool of their choice I knew exactly where I would swim and why.
Swimming is a fantastic exercise for all ages, yet we probably all know at least one person who wouldn’t dream of getting in a pool (or the sea on holiday) for fear of putting their lumps and bumps on public display. Thousands of people hold themselves back from all sorts of activities because they fear judgement and alienation because they do not meet society’s idea of body beautiful.
Naturism puts everyone on an equal footing; It is hard to be judgemental when everyone is entirely on view. You quickly realise that bodies come in all shapes and sizes and none of them are perfect – we have scars, stretch marks, bits that are too big or too small, too wrinkly or hairy or spotty. You don’t choose to interact with people because of their body, but because they are friendly or have shared interests or interesting opinions. Spending time unclothed, swimming or socialising has taught me to care less about what I see as my imperfections and given me far more confidence.
Swimathon has raised over £2 million for Cancer Research and Marie Curie. For those living with and after cancer, a healthy body is what really matters. We should all embrace and celebrate our healthy, functional bodies, whatever they look like.
My lap-counting hubby and a dozen other comfortably naked people gather on the poolside to cheer me in as I stop the clock at 1hr 37mins. With no costume to wring out and 10 minutes before the session ends, I head straight off for well-earned tea and biscuits and to fill my bucket with donations. Perhaps others will consider taking part as individuals or a team in future years?