“I don’t have MS in the water”

Fri 21 April 2023

Linda Simpson

Linda discovered the benefits of sea swimming by accident when she took a dip in the chilly North Sea one day out of curiosity. She talks about how sea swimming helps with some of her MS symptoms and how it calms her anxiety.

During the COVID-19 lockdown I still wanted to get out and get some fresh air. So my dear friend Susan used to take me for a walk along the beach. We would see these sea swimmers and I would think: ‘Look at these strange people!’ We kept walking past and we thought: ‘Maybe we should join them!’

So Susan and I both got wetsuits and we went in with them. They’re called the St Andrews Swimmers. It’s a fantastic group.

The first time, I did ask myself what on earth I was doing. But the benefits far outweigh the downside. I just feel so wonderful. And I got addicted to it. I only do it from May to December because it’s too cold for me during the other months. When I’m not doing it, I really miss it.

A good night’s sleep

I have problems sleeping. I have problems with my bladder and have to get up in the night to go to the toilet. But after my first sea swim I slept virtually all night.

My walking and balance is absolutely dreadful. But in the water, because I'm not having to balance, my MS goes – I don’t have MS in the water.

I also do stretches in the water, because it’s easier than doing them on the land, so it improves my flexibility too.

Managing anxiety

I have anxiety and because I’m not swimming at the moment, my anxiety levels are quite high. I can’t take medication for my anxiety long-term because of the MS meds I’m on. I try to do breathing exercises or just avoid situations where I get anxious. The swimming takes the worry and anxiety away. If I’m worried about finances or a hospital procedure or something, I go in for a swim and I’m fine.

I’ve got a 5mm wetsuit for the colder months. I also wear a hat, gloves and a pair of £7 trainers. I take a hot water bottle down to the shore with me. And I have one of these fancy dryrobes.

Listen to your body

You have to listen to your body and get out when you first feel cold. But it’s not in the water that I notice the cold, it’s actually coming out. It’s the air temperature that gets to me. So I work out how long I can stay in depending on how cold the water is.

I’ve got a waterproof watch that tells you the temperature of the water and I just set an alarm. My kids got me that - they really love that mum does this, so they really encourage me.

Safety first

I never go in on my own. That’s really important. I always go with friends. And I’ve got one of these flotation devices attached to me. I always have someone holding me as well or someone will grab my arm. They all know me so well and they look out for me. It’s good socially as well. We have barbecues and we all talk while we swim.

I can’t wait for the warmer weather so I can get back in the water. There are worse things to be addicted to than swimming!