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Women What Whistle

This podcast is about not falling in line or fading away. Stories of bravery, accounts of resilience and even tales of sheer bloody-mindedness. It’s about finding our voice, and sometimes our brave, through the stories of other women who’ve had to find theirs.

Nov 12, 2020

Welcome to another episode of Inside My Wardrobe – I was originally going to call this “Keeeep Talking” as it’s Strictly Come Dancing season but then I remembered “just keep swimming, swimming swimming” – and I couldn’t really move on from that. You have to have seen the movie Nemo to get the title.  “Just Keep Swimming” is Dory’s line, played by Ellen DeGeneres and her motto taught to her by her Mum, when life gets hard, to just keep swimming ….

This week’s guest came about after #76 “How To Eat And Be Happy” with therapist from the Recovery Centre,  Michelle Scott talking about eating disorders – she asked if I would be interested to talk to Olivia Sharron – Founder of Chilly Dippers which is a cold water swimming community that is growing across the UK to encourage not just physical wellbeing but to help people find and develop natural coping mechanisms for dealing with every day stress and anxiety – which of course was a definite yes from me because I hand on heart believe that the more comfortable we are with ourselves, our emotions, our feelings and learning how to express them, the easier life gets – it doesn’t stop the mountains from standing in our way, but when you have confidence in every aspect of who you are and where you’ve been, you develop a strength that carries you forwards over mountains and through the storms which are inevitable – how boring would it be to sit on a beach all day every day? I’ve talked before about how I was going to spend a weekend with a group of friends walking up Snowdon and down again but as life would have it, a family emergency cropped up which meant I couldn’t go but when they all came back, no one talked about reaching the top, it was all about the journey and who struggled and who slipped and then the champagne in the hot tub afterwards – mountains are good particularly when we climb them with friends.

In this episode we talk about the importance of talking, of community, of looking around and seeing that we aren’t climbing the mountain on our own, so it’s important to express how we feel and then there’s this amazing effect that cold water swimming has – not just in the camaraderie around a hot chocolate afterwards, but also about how physically shocking your body into fight or flight helps bypass the mind and speed up the process of freeing our instinct to help us become people who have confidence in our own ability to cope when the going gets tough.

It’s been proven to:

  • Encourage Better sleep
  • Improves circulation
  • A Natural high
  • Increases your metabolism
  • Boosts your immune system
  • Enhances happiness – releases endorphins
  • Is great for the skin

The premise of Chilly Dippers (, is a mental health initiative set up by Olivia Sharron whilst at The University of Edinburgh to encourage more natural coping mechanisms for dealing with everyday stresses and anxieties. The focus is on how cold-water swimming and its mental and physical health benefits really takes people out of their normal routines, for even 5 minutes of something different to really help them gain some perspective of their worries.  Olivia says “I had noticed too frequently, so many of my friends battling with mental health issues and not being able to speak about it. Luckily, through the many ‘Chilly Dips’ I have hosted up in Edinburgh and in London’s Serpentine Lido - we have been able to challenge the taboo around mental health through opening up opportunities for likeminded people to share their stories / or simply just engage in a fun, outdoor activity”. 

You’ve heard me waxing lyrical about the benefits of Japanese practise of forest bathing. It has been proven that intentionally spending time around trees, walking through woods and forests lower heart rate and blood pressure, reduces stress hormone production, boosts your immune system and improves the overall feelings of wellbeing – it just goes to show the importance of being aware of all the natural world has for us.

On top of that, Chris Evans has been singing the praises of cold showers for months so you don’t necessarily have to take the whole plunge although I have to say, from those I know who do it, it seems to be addictive, my aunt in her 50s swims all year round in the sea in south west Wales – she posted a photo just the other day after they came out of their lockdown, the first thing she and a group of women did was to leap in the car and head to the beach, in November – and it’s cold on the welsh coast ALL year!!

Lorraine Candy, editor of Style Magazine in the Sunday times recently wrote a piece on how HRT and cold water swimming together have really helped her through the menopause – and she only learned how to do the front crawl in her late 40s so there’s hope for us all! You don’t have to be a natural or seasoned swimmer – “the endorphin high lasts for some time, I can only liken the buzz to the heady days of the 90s rave scene”

People make extraordinary claims about how cold water swimming has literally saved their lives because it’s had such a profound effect on their mental and physical health – stress relief, depression – all caused by the body learning how to protect itself when faced with a surge in cortisol


Cold water swimming may help defend from dementia by stimulating latent hibernation protein, scientists say

  • 'Cold-shock' protein - RBM3 - was first identified in mice after they were cooled
  • It was found to trigger the removal and then regrowth of synapses in the brain
  • Scientists wanted to see whether humans would also be able to make the protein
  • And tests on lido swimmers have confirmed people can also produce it

So the evidence is there, for ALL ages there is a huge benefit to cold water swimming but equally, and so importantly as Olivia pointed out, the importance of talking can never be underestimated. A few weeks ago we did a couple of episodes on what Dr Becky Quicke referred to as the third initiation of a woman’s life – of menopause, and of stepping into your queendom and being there for all the other younger women who cross your path so whatever age you are, reach out, not just to your peers, but to those older than you and to those younger than you, we are not designed to live isolated and disconnected lives, we thrive on connection and community so keep swimming and keep talking – and come and join in our Facebook group page as there are women of all ages ready to connect and share together.

Links are dotted through the notes but the main one for Olivia is

and my website where you can find all the podcast episodes and more