Swimming through Menopause
Photo Credit @Sue_Lacey
With the main symptoms of the peri-menopause/menopause including hot flushes, night sweats, difficulty sleeping and a reduced sex drive together with “brain fog” or problems with memory and concentration there are also less well known symptoms like headaches; mood changes (including low mood and anxiety); joint stiffness, aches and pains; reduced muscle mass; and increased risk of osteoporosis.
Here is Sarah's experience of how wild swimming has helped her through this stage of her life and may help you.
My name is Sarah Leveridge and I am 52 years of age.
I live in landlocked Hertfordshire and until 2019 swam regularly in the sea from the end of May to the end of September. Having grown up with typical British summers of wind, rain and sandy sandwiches, it became my happy place and I have fond memories of the waves breaking over me and the buzz I got as I was immersed in the cold water.
About 6 years ago, I started to feel not quite myself. I had entered what I now know to be the perimenopause and my symptoms included:
- Irregular periods
- Hot flushes and sleep problems.
- Mood changes
- Vaginal and bladder problems
- Achy bones
- Brain fog
I started my journey for knowledge by asking my mother about her symptoms but she breezily told me that she “just sailed through it”. This led me to obsessive googling about what was happening to my body and what I could do to help naturally control the symptoms. In amongst this feverish research, I read an article on the benefits of cold-water swimming and I thought ‘Let’s give it a go!’
Via social media, I joined a group of swimmers (mainly women) who swim all year round in the Thames in Surrey. On a sunny October day in 2019, I joined my first swim with them and what a joy it was. The water temperature was about 11 degrees and as I slipped down the bank and felt the cold-water wash over me, I felt at peace. I noticed the following week that my achy hips were not quite as achy and I was not waking up in the middle of the night hot and sweaty.
I continued to swim throughout the winter about twice a week and the water at one stage dropped to 3 degrees. The brain fog eased, and I was able to tackle those complex challenges at work with new vigour. My family noticed the change as my mood swings eased and my general contentment grew.
I am now in my 4th year of continual all year-round swimming and while things are not always perfect, I do believe the cold water has helped alleviate many of the symptoms naturally.
I have now passed through what is classed as the menopause and am in the post-menopausal stage. I still experience some of the symptoms described above but I do honestly believe that the dopamine hit from the cold water has aided me through this transition in my life.
My advice to all women out there at this stage of life is to connect with a group of swimmers and give it a go. Not only is the water a great healer but the friendships I have made have been invaluable, and of course the baked goods consumed after a swim are quite literally, the icing on the cake!
Photo Credit: @aliswimsbakesandbikes
If you are thinking of taking up wild swimming take a look at our Open Water Safety Guide for more information.