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Why I Swim - Karen Doe

I am quite an ordinary person really, no big dramatic story, I have always been a swimmer but I have been swimming in lakes and rivers for the past four years. I am a single mum and I live with my 21 year old son in Stroud, I moved here 17 years ago after living on a boat for 12 years. I have worked for the National Trust for 17 years, an organisation I am passionate about and regularly travel to Trust properties across Gloucestershire and Somerset. I live in a co-housing community in Stroud in an eco-friendly home.

I have always loved swimming, it was my sport at school and something that I have carried on loving throughout my life. Until four years ago, I have mostly swum indoors but some lovely friends encouraged me to swim in a local lake and I was hooked straight away. There was something so thrilling about the freedom and the challenge of swimming in open water.

Karen under a waterfall
The past 10 years have been pretty tough and have been focused on other people; supporting my ex-husband with his mental health issues and his alcoholism and dealing with his subsequent death, helping my son to deal with his father’s death as well as his own mental health struggles and working full time to pay the bills. When I rediscovered swimming — and specifically outdoor swimming four years ago — it was finally something that I could do for me, something that brought me joy for so many reasons, and I am ‘selfish’ in my pursuit of it.  

My first outdoor swim was in a lake near Cirencester in the Cotswold Water Park. What was memorable for me was — how inclusive and friendly everyone was and how encouraging (I was feeling very nervous that first time). But I also remember how amazing I felt afterwards, the sense of achievement and the general buzz of having got into the lake and having swum out into the depths.  

I have come to recognise how my swims can alter my mood, help with menopausal symptoms, and this year be an antidote to the madness of the past six months. I have laughed so much, I have found a body confidence amongst swimmers that I have never had before and I have had amazing adventures.

Underwater shot
Outdoor swimming has brought great friendship into my life and specifically amazing strong and brave women. It has helped me to become less body conscious, I think nothing now about whipping my kit off in most situations. It is an activity that challenges me, delights me and gives me the most incredible buzz. To start with, I couldn’t put my finger on what it was that made me feel so happy after every outdoor swim but now I know it is the wonderful endorphins that I get after a swim, even more so as the water gets colder - last year we swam through the winter without wetsuits for the first time. 

Swimming is now such a huge part of my life but I couldn’t pinpoint just one single thing that compels me to get back in the water each time -- there are so many reasons... I am compelled by the amazing women who I swim with are my partners in crime, by the laughter, the squeals of fear and pleasure, by the thrill of the adventures we go on, by the challenge of swimming in colder and colder water, by noticing how my body responds to this challenge and how powerful the mindfulness of cold water swimming is for me. 

But most of all I am compelled by how amazing I will feel afterwards. 

I will never stop getting into cold water🏊🏻‍♀️🏊🏻‍♀️  💕



Our Why I Swim project aims to give voice to our untold swim stories and strengthen our fantastic community. If you would like to share your story, drop us an email at


If you are new to outdoor swimming and feel inspired to give it a go, please ensure you do so safely. 

Firstly, have a read of our tips for winter swimming here and familiarise yourself with what's useful to have in your wild swim kit.

We would strongly advise trying out your first swim with an experienced cold water swimmer until you are completely confident of your own abilities. 

The Outdoor Swimming Society has a great list of local swimming groups which is well worth checking out and a quick search on Facebook should provide results.

And if you have any questions, pop a post in the Swim Feral Facebook page and our fantastic community of swimmers will be sure to help. 

Happy swimming xx



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