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Why I Swim - Lauren Holt

I've been swimming in the sea since I was a child but my first proper outdoor swim that wasn't the sea was at a river in Kent and it was absolutely freezing but I just remember absolutely buzzing with excitement. I just kept thinking this is crazy… let's do it!

Day to day I work as Ranger & Volunteer Coordinator for the Mendip Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. I would describe myself as ambitious and driven, I'm always searching for a new challenge or wanting to try something new. Connecting with nature is really important for me and I'm a real advocate for enabling people to engage with wildlife and the outdoors in a sustainable way so they too can have special experiences.

Lauren on a lido with misty water behind her

My swim story started back when my mum encouraged me to have swimming lessons. I used dread going and I would be so up and down with it. Despite that it made me love the water because I had confidence in it. All in all I swam for about 10 years and even did competitions. During my swim lessons sometimes I would pretend I was a mermaid and I also did diving lessons for a while. I never realised how much of an impact those times swimming as a child had on me until now. It's definitely a comfort and a safe space for me.

Recently, swimming has given me a focus and sense of excitement, building my confidence at the same time. More importantly though, I've made friends and connections with people through swimming. There’s something about it that doesn't exist in any other community that I've come across. It's like one of those 'if you know you know' moments. The mental health benefits have really struck a chord with me too. This last year has been tough for everyone but I reached breaking point and swimming saved me. So this January I swam outdoors every day to raise money for Mental Health Swims and documenting my journey through photos in a joint project with Mike French - @mikefrench_creative (he’s taken all the photos accompanying this story). I learnt through first hand experience how much community and peer support there is in the swimming world.

Shot of the sea with a pier on the right and Lauren and her friend's head bobbing away in the distance
I suppose it was the challenge of swimming outdoors that initially drew me in — I was impressed by outdoor swimmers and anything that impresses me naturally makes me want to give it a go!  I'm also inherently curious so was keen to find out what the fuss is about.

There is such excitement and a rush every time I venture into the water. I describe it like a drug because it is. It's as if outdoor swimming calls to me — I’m completely drawn to the water. I can honestly say I've never regretted a dip and no two dips are ever the same. Even when there's that slight moment of doubt before you dip your toe in, I just know how comforting and calming the water is.

You feel totally present and for me it's almost a form of meditation. That's why I swim.

Lauren sitting on the grass with a coffee, smiling, looking off to the side



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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