Sarah: Hello, and welcome to the Tough Girl podcast.
Today, I've got a very exciting interview with Lisa Williams, no relation to me, your host, Sarah Williams. I'm going to be speaking to Lisa about her swimming the English Channel, which she did this August.
Hi Lisa, how are you?
Lisa: I'm really good, thank you.
Sarah: Swimming the English Channel, has this always been a dream of yours?
Lisa: Not really, no. I swam a lot as a child, and then gave up for about 15 years, and got back into swimming 5 years ago in a Masters Club, doing sprinters, so long way away from that.
Sarah: Going back to the beginning, so for those who haven't heard of you, or heard about this fantastic challenge you did over Summer, how would you describe yourself?
Lisa: I just see myself as quite an ordinary person. I've always tried to find a good work-life balance, and about 5 years ago I realized that I was going out too much, and drinking too much, and that perhaps I should try and concentrate a bit more on my health. Just joined a local swimming club, and it all went from there. It's been a bit of a crazy journey.
Sarah: You're in your 30s, aren't you?
Lisa: Yep, 38 on Saturday. It was my original slot for the Channel was actually opening on Saturday, so the 5th, 11th of September, so for the last 2 and a half years, the 5th, 11th of September has been in my head as the week that I was going to swim the Channel when ... I went early, so I'll be able to celebrate my birthday without having to stay in and not drink.
Sarah: I was going to say, it's actually quite interesting you brought that up, because I think a lot of women, especially ... I mean, I know in my 20s, when I was living in London, it was very much work hard, play hard, you're going out all the time, you're doing lots of socializing, and I think sometimes health did take a backseat, just because it was difficult trying to fit it all in. I eventually took up running, because I wanted to get healthier and fitter, and you picked swimming. What is it about swimming that you really enjoyed?
Lisa: Well, it was something I did a lot as a kid. I grew up in the Middle East, so I grew up in Dubai, and Abu Dhabi, and I learnt to swim very young. My primary school had a club. I really enjoyed being outdoors, and although swimming is quite an individual sport, people are generally quite sociable, and really nice, and maybe to try and do some longer swims. It was just as open water swimming was getting big in London, and Human Race and other people starting putting on 1.5 and 3k swims. I bought a wetsuit and started doing that. Just found the people really nice.
Now, half my friends are swimmers, and we do lots of things together. This Winter, we did a Winter challenge, which was we had a list of all the pools in London, indoor and outdoor, and tried to swim in as many as possible. We had a little league going, to see who could swim in the most. We have a little dip-and-dine club, so we go for a swim, and then for lunch or dinner afterwards. It's turned something that's quite an individual sport into something very sociable.
Sarah: For those who are listening who are thinking, "open water swimming. I think I know what that is. It's swimming outside." Is it in the sea, is it in lakes, is it in the Thames? What is open water swimming?
Lisa: I think it's a mixture, and to different people it means different things. For me, I don't think it matters whether you wear a wetsuit, or you don't wear a wetsuit. It's just important that people get outside and enjoy being in the water. Swims range from 400 meters long to big marathon swims, such as the Channel. Most organizations now put on 750 meters, 1.5, 3k, 5k, and 10k swims, which is great, because it's a real good range for people. A lot of organizations let people wear wetsuits, or not wear wetsuits. A mixture of lake swimming, so you can swim in Dorney Lake, which is where the Olympic rowing was. For example, the Dart 10k, which is a lovely swim down the River Dart. Swim up in Coniston, in the lake up there, or Windermere. Lots of swims run by places like the RNLI in the sea.
There's a real mixture for different people, and whatever distance you fancy. It's good to give them all a go, because swimming in the sea is very different to swimming in a lake, because you've got the tides and currents, and the waves. It's a bit more of a challenge, whereas the lake is normally much nicer to swim in, but you haven't got the salt giving you buoyancy. For people who aren't great swimmers, wearing wetsuits really helps with that. I think open water swimming, for me, is anything that's in water that's outside, even lidos, I guess. Outdoor lidos, of which there's plenty in the UK to go and enjoy.
Sarah: It's obviously a very ... It is in an individual sport, in terms of it's you, you're out there, you're swimming along. I loved what you were saying earlier about how you do these different dine clubs. You've got this league challenge to make it more sociable, because I think that's a huge part of getting more women, especially, involved in sports, and getting active, and getting outside. I think that's a really good thing to be doing. You mentioned something earlier on called the Masters Club. What is that, specifically?
Lisa: Masters Clubs are ... They're all over the UK. They're swimming clubs for people who are generally in their 20s upwards, and you can go and join ... The Masters Club I joined, we had people ran