With the UK gyms mostly closed last year, nearly a million people over three months downloaded an NHS-sponsored fitness app to get up from the sofa and go for a run.
In later locks, wild swimming converts have evangelized on the healing powers of cold water.
Now the Outdoor Swimming Society has launched a free Swim Couch to 5K program, building on the Public Health England program Couch to 5K, to promote three months of training for a summer solstice challenge in the ocean or in a lake, pool or river .
The program, developed by Kate Rew, the founder of the OSS, is aimed at skilled swimmers looking to improve their front crawl and enthusiasts who are less fit after the UK lockdown.
Rew said she “suddenly became aware of how many independent, free-thinking friends” were couch to 5K during the pandemic. “I realized we had reached a point where we just needed someone to tell us what to do. I thought it would be really nice for swimmers to have a plan to get us out of the doldrums and get off our couches to level us around midsummer, ”she said.
The program aims to develop a long, relaxed crawl with minimal effort and maximum rationalization. “This kind of light long-distance front crawl is so fluid it’s like a long walk and you can go on for hours,” the program notes read.
Daniel Bullock, the director of Swim for Tri, developed the program, which began with the start of the UK summer. It’s not too late to take part. Training will remain on dry land until May 1, when the indoor pools are expected to reopen and the outdoor water should have warmed up for more than just a token bath.
There will be at least three weekly sessions until June 21st when thousands of swimmers across the UK are due to take on the 5K challenge.
Among them will be Will Sparkes, 25, a junior doctor who has spent much of the pandemic on Covid wards at a Portsmouth hospital and has little time to swim even when the pools are open.
“It was an intense year. With pools closed, I’ve probably swum no more than 200 or 300 meters in the last six months, ”he said. He managed to keep walking and cycling, but missed the “thoughtlessness” of swimming. “Swimming is different because you can switch off, you only have yourself and your thoughts. Mentally I’m okay now that the sun has come out and I’m much brighter on everything, but the winter was pretty dark and difficult. “
Rew said she had only brief falls into her local river during the winter, never submerged her face and was “much grumpier” without her pool swimming in the final lock.
Although Sparkes had swum long distances before the pandemic, the prospect of tackling 3 miles was nerve-wracking, he said. “It’s pretty intense. Getting to 5km in a month and a bit straight is quite a big job but the plan is written by a professional so I hope it works. “