FROM A TO SEA: Time to embrace the belly | #5

September 13th, 2022 8:30 AM

By Siobhan Cronin

Swimmers getting ready for the swim to Garinish Island as part of the annual Gaddin About Garnish event in Glengarriff. (Photo: courtesy BISRA Gaddin Abt Garnish on Facebook)

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Siobhan Cronin is The Southern Star's editor. She's also an avid sea swimmer and in her regular blog 'From A to Sea' she documents her sea swimming journey. So get the wetsuit on, dive in and join her on her aquatic adventures


SUMMER is definitely over, so those carefree togs-only days are behind us now, if we ever had any.

As I said before, the fear of jellies and cold combined to ensure I had, oh about, two days when I ditched the wetsuit.

But I did replace my thick ribbed booties with my lighter socks and wore just one swimming cap, albeit the thermal bonnet one!

We took part in some great organised swims, including the 2km Union Hall swim in aid of the RNLI.

It’s a lovely trip across the harbour from Keelbeg pier to Glandore and back, in pretty much a square route, though how closely we stuck to the square (or not) was revealed by our tracker watches, and we all had a good giggle over our lunch afterwards.

There is something so wonderfully social about those organised swims and the chats before and after.

Eventually you start to see the same familiar faces rocking up, and there are little nods of recognition as our Irish swimming community seems to be getting smaller in terms of familiarity, though ever-expanding in the popularity stakes.

We still have two to go – the spectacular Killary Fjord on the Galway/Mayo border (2km for us) and the Sherkin to Baltimore 2km swim which is, happily, back this year, after changing route during the pandemic.

One of our regular favourites is the Gaddin About Garnish swim in Glengarriff which sees routes for 1km, 3km and 5km swimmers.

I almost never manage to get a place first time around, so the second swim of the season there is usually where I end up. Sometimes it’s an even better option, as the extra month or so has given the water more time to warm up.

This year our little group of gals amazed ourselves at ambitiously signing up for the 3km option on August 27th, which takes swimmers right around Garinish Island.

And we were even more stunned to find we pulled it off no bother. Though I think 3km is pretty much my limit.

We all came in at around the 90-minute mark, give or take 10 mins here or there. But I think the cold would seriously get to me if I was to push it to 5km, without at least a hot water bottle or solar panels strapped to my back and feet.

Still 3km isn’t a bad distance for us oldies.

A tracking map of Siobhán’s swim around Garinish for the Gaddin About Garnish swim in


We are all around the 50-year mark ourselves, so we are kind of giving ourselves high fives every time we add another swim – and the obligatory free swim hat – to our portfolios.

Another notch on our float straps, you might say. Especially given that we are all relatively new to sea-swimming. As in, over the last ten years, and not ‘lifers’ at all.

And speaking of 50, I can’t help but notice, looking around these swim groups, the predominance of the ladies in a similar age category to mine.

Sure, there are plenty of men, young girls and even several octogenarians, but I think the vast bulk of swimmers appear to be in the 45-60 age category, and female.

And speaking of bulk, I have a few theories on that.

I’ve never had a healthier diet, or a more regular exercise regime. I hated PE at school and the extent of my exercise was cycling the few kms – reluctantly – to school, from Ballintemple to Turner’s Cross.

But now I’m swimming, yoga-ing and even dancing, thanks to my beloved Apple Fitness app.

And yet I just can’t shift that belly. I see ads on my Facebook feed for ridding ourselves of the ‘menopause apron’, but swimming seems to tone up everything – except that immovable force.

I have taken to referring to it as my ballast – those items placed in the belly of a ship to ensure its stability.

I tell myself if my gallant efforts to rid myself of my bilge were ever to bear fruit, I might find myself sinking wistfully to the bottom of the lake, or veering off course, unable to steer for land anymore.

It’s a reassuring thought – for as long as it lasts – but I need regular reminders of that theory – especially when I am trying to squeeze into a cocktail dress I bought ten years ago, determined to maintain my strategy of sustainability in the wardrobe stakes.

Another theory I have for the mature lady’s fascination with sea swimming is also linked to the menopausal years.

I’ve noticed recently that those damned hot flushes had all but disappeared over the winter, but began to resurface in the warm weather – almost in tandem with the warming of the sea.

I am now convinced that winter swimming is also cold water therapy for the hot surges, and I am already longing for the return of the icy cool liquid as temperatures drop in October and November.

Believe me, thousands of women have copped this, but are keeping the knowledge to themselves, lest our seas become totally overrun with sweating, menopausal women.

Then, of course, there’s the camaraderie element of it.

And you only have to watch the fabulous siblings in the brilliant Apple TV series Bad Sisters to see the benefits of girlie chats on water, as the quartet regularly meet up at Dublin’s Forty Foot to plot their brother-in-law’s murder.

Though I am sure there are plenty less dramatic plans being made in lakes and harbours all over Ireland – like what to wear for the Christmas bash, where to find the best thermal leggings, or how to make a chicken curry stretch for the week.

But, honestly, when everyone else is driving us mad, and testing our patience during these testing years, where better to turn than to our gal pals, to swap stress stories and reassure ourselves during those wonderful post-swim tea-and-biscuits chats that we are not, in fact, going mad?

Of course, those chats may well explain the emergence of my ballast. But hey, folks, they are wholemeal biscuits, I swear.

Read Siobhán's previous blog entry by clicking here.

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