For International Women’s Day I decided to get involved in the sunrise swim at Portobello beach and help raise money for Women’s Aid. It sounded simple. Make a donation, strip to your swimsuit, run in for a dip then back out and get dressed. In 2019, the event had around 70 swimmers, but this year saw over 350 people take part and raise awareness of the incredible work Women’s Aid Edinburgh do to help domestic abuse survivors.

It sounded easy, a shame I absolutely can’t stand being cold though…

I like the heat. My showers are at least 40 degrees. I have dual control heating in my car specifically because I like to be really warm. I consider my scarves, gloves and blankets my bff’s. All of these things are modern-day luxuries. I don’t need them, I’m very lucky to have them, but I’m happy to rarely deviate from the comfort they give me.

I was so nervous I actually tossed and turned quite a bit the night before. Nervous I’d cave and make some rubbish excuse not to go (my alarm didn’t go off – see I’d already planned it). Nervous I’d get there and make another rubbish excuse about not being able to run in (I forgot my towel and change of clothes – See, I’d already planned it). I had very little belief in myself that I’d actually do it.

When 5.30am rolled around I stared at my watch, wrestling with my thoughts. One part of me was pro-excuse, the other gave me the tough love I needed to slip out of bed and into the car.

I’ll keep this bit short because it felt like it went incredibly quickly. We got into our swimwear and after the photocall ran in so fast I had no way back. We submerged ourselves before I had any time to think about how scared I was. A minute or later, we were sprinting out of the water to our towels and clothes.

That was it. Done. tick off the list. As the sun rose over the East Lothian just after 7am, we were pulling our clothes back on and watching hundreds of others swimming, zumba-ing and having a fantastic time doing something special with their friends.

It’s true what they say about cold water swimming, it gives you a huge endorphin rush and natural high. Once I’d been in, I felt alive. My body and brain had suddenly woke up and I was ready to face the day. I was freezing. Truly, I couldn’t feel my feet for the 25 minutes after going in, but I didn’t care. I did it. I felt proud, strong and so pleased to be a part of such a special event that ultimately, raised the profile, and cash for such an important charity.

I drove home with the music blasting and a huge smile on my face. I looked at the bracelet on my wrist, which has the words I live by engraved on it, and smiled. Growth and comfort can’t co-exist.

My showers are still warm but I’m starting to give myself longer blasts of cold water at the end. Maybe I’ll take entirely cold showers one day? Tiny changes that’ll lead to big differences, and all because I got out of bed at 5:30 am and gave my pathetic excuses the boot.

You can watch some beautiful drone footage taken by Chris McIntyre on Vimeo, and video of the morning shot by The Kreative Athlete on YouTube.

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I’m Gina, a Scottish lass teaching myself how to cook great plant-based grub while learning about our food system.

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