Crisis Icebreaker at Brockwell Lido

Crisis Icebreaker Cold Water Swimming Challenge - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

F**k. F**k that’s cold. Bloody hell. Christ it’s freezing.

Just a few of the phrases yelped by myself and fellow swimmers as we leapt into Brockwell Lido on Saturday afternoon. It was really bloody cold. And it was raining. And I’d definitely do it again, because it turns out there’s nothing like the rush of immersing yourself in cold water.

Huddled by the side of the pool wearing all the layers I was getting nervous about what I’d signed up for. I’m used to pushing myself out of my comfort zone, but maybe a dip in a freezing pool in the middle of December was a challenge too far. What if I wussed out and couldn’t do it? What if I froze (metaphorically) and just couldn’t face the jump? What if this was all a really bad idea? I tried to remember why I’d signed up, as I mentioned in my last post you do some funny things when you’re a couple of thousand words into an essay and have been indoors for much to long, but there was more to the decision than that. I was doing this to support Crisis. If I was cold from the half hour I’d been outside, knowing that at the end of the day I’d be going home to my safe, warm flat, then how must someone who’s homeless feel in the middle of winter as the temperatures drop? I wasn’t pushing my boundaries for myself, I was doing it so at least four other people could spend Christmas somewhere safe and warm where they can access support and advice to begin the journey out of homelessness. I don’t know these people, but I had them in my mind as I plunged myself it to the icy pool.

Ok, plunged is probably a bit much. It wasn’t that elegant. Think of it more as tentatively throwing myself in alongside a reindeer and an elf I’d made friends with in the changing room (I love the camaraderie that doing dumb sh*t creates!). My skin stung as I hit the water and a gasped for air as the people around me swore and cursed. Pushing off into breast stroke other people waded across the pool, staggering through the water to where friends and family were waiting with towels and hot drinks. I kept pushing, but it’s shocking how poor your form becomes where your freezing your tits off. The side of the pool was in sight and Mike was primed with a towel and my big down coat, ready to start operation warm up. I kept paddling, each stroke more and more effort, hauling myself to the wall as my shocked body felt around for the steps out. Shuddering, shaking and beaming I’d done it. I’d broken through my comfort zone and it felt AMAZING.

Crisis Icebreaker Cold Water Swimming Challenge - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

As soon as I got out of the pool we started working on getting me warmed up. Following Adam’s advice I dried my feet and clumsily attempted to put on my warmest socks. It was insane how quickly my feet froze up once I left the pool. I’ve never felt anything like it, my toes burnt with numbness and it was really difficult to get them into my socks. Next up Mike threw me a hat to pop over my swimming cap (which didn’t come off until I was in the bath about half an hour later!). I layered up gradually, hoodie, leggings and coat got thrown on over my cossie as I sipped herbal tea from a flask (points to Mike for thinking to bring that along!). Other swimmers darted in and out of the sauna, but it was packed out and I was too chilly to wait.

As I thawed out I realised that I felt amazing. After a week of not really being all there following a concussion I suddenly felt brilliant. My mind and body felt alive. I’d always wondered why people did this - the obvious reaction when someone tells you they like to dunk themselves in cold water is to call them a nutter - but now I understood, there’s a crazy rush that comes with both putting yourself out there and braving the elements. You feel invincible. It gets your blood pumping and your energy surges. You become capable of anything. I don’t think I’ll be becoming a a regular cold water swimmer, but I will definitely take the plunge again. Everyone should, it’s amazing!

There’s still time to sign up for upcoming Icebreaker events, or to DIY your own, you can find out more information here. Try it, you might like it (and either way you get a swimming badge, which is epic!).

My sponsorship page is still open, you can find it here.

Preparing for the Crisis Icebreaker Swim

In collaboration with realbuzz.

Cold Water Swimming Tips - A Pretty Place To Place, London Running and Fitness Blog

You do some funny things when you’re a couple of thousand words into an essay, funny things like deciding jumping into a freezing swimming pool would be an awesome idea…I think maybe I’d been indoors for too long and it was my body saying it needed fresh air! Whatever it was that got me thinking it would be a good idea doesn’t really matter because I’m doing this to support a really important charity - Crisis.

There is no reason why anyone in a country as affluent as the UK should be homeless, but around 160,000 households in the UK are, and rough sleeping is forecast to rise by 76% in the next decade unless the government takes action to tackle it. I’ll be really honest, I’m not convinced that’s going to happen, at least not in a meaningful and effective sense. Which is why I support Crisis. Crisis works side by side with homeless people, and these people influence the charity’s campaign for permanent change. In the short term Crisis supports people out of homelessness and gives them access to basic services, in the long term it lobbies for change. Crisis also gives homeless people a place to go for Christmas, which can be the start of their journey out of homelessness. A place at the Christmas table is £28.18, and I’d like to make sure a few people can celebrate and access everything Crisis has to offer. Want to support me? You can find all the details here.

Cold Water Swimming Tips - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

So. The Swim. The Icebreaker is a pretty simple idea - jump in an lido and swim a length, no big deal. Except the water will be cold, really cold. Brockwell Lido reaches highs of around 8 degrees this time of year. I’m no stranger to outdoor swimming, but normally I swim in warm places, not South East London in the middle of winter! With this in mind I thought it might be a good idea to hit up my expert contacts at realbuzz and get some tips so that I am as prepared as possible to brave the cold for Crisis! Here’s what Adam Walker, realbuzz swimming expert and the first person to swim the Ocean’s Seven, had to say…

swim somewhere safe

It seems obvious, but making sure you swim somewhere safe is crucial. Brockwell Lido has lifeguards, which is really reassuring as while I’ve been cleared to swim following a head injury I still need to be supervised pretty closely! However, if you’re looking to swim in the wild then one of the biggest battles will be ensuring that wherever you plan to swim is safe.

Adam suggests that “there are often many lakes and open waters which have organised sessions and have suitable safety in place. I would recommend you swim in one of these locations and there will be other like-minded swimmers there who you can buddy up with and swim in pairs or a small group.” Adding that “Not only is it a good safety measure but it makes training easier and is an opportunity to make new friends too.”


As I’ve mentioned, the thing that sets this event apart is the cold. It’s cold by the side of the pool, it’s cold in the pool. I’m anticipating the water is likely to feel colder than it actually is and that it might cause me to catch my breath, and while I don’t have time this time around Adam suggestion that “by doing small frequent dips you will soon find how much easier and longer you can comfortably swim each time and you will feel more confident too.”

He adds, “on entering the water, I recommend wetting the face and back of the neck, which will prime the body for entry as these are sensitive parts of the body. As you immerse yourself up to your shoulders, I suggest exhaling on entry as the ribcage contracts it will make it easier to get a second breath without gasping, particularly if it is very cold.”

after your swim

There is nothing worse than feeling cold all day, and when you leave the water it’s important you get warmed up – quickly and correctly. Adam suggests that “the first thing to do is dry your swim hat and put a woolly hat over the top to keep the heat in. Only take the swim hat off when you have suitably warmed up to your normal body temperature.

“When getting changed, dry your feet off and put your socks on first,” Adam adds. “Once you are fully dressed, taking on a warm drink can also help insulate your core, however be warned if you have been in colder water, what seems lukewarm to other people can be volcanic to you when your body temperature has dropped.” Sounds like a good excuse to head to the Lido Cafe for post swim coffee and cake!

* This post is in collaboration with realbuzz.

The Best Black Leggings

Black leggings are the core of my wardrobe, I wear them ALL THE TIME. To work. When I’m working out. Around the house. I always have a pair of black leggings on me when I travel and I honestly believe they’re the most useful thing I have in my wardrobe. You can get away with black leggings for pretty much any occasion (ok, maybe only at a pinch, but you see where I’m going with this) and I reckon it’s good to invest in one or two really good pairs you can wash and wear on repeat.

When I’m hunting for black leggings I have a few non negotiables - they have to be high waisted, not only for comfort, but because this means I can wear them with short and long tops easily; they need to hit my ankle, I prefer a 7/8 length as it shows just the right amount of ankle (how Victorian of me); the fabric has to be thick and crucially pass the squat test! My leggings get tested in all sorts of environments, from yoga classes to the gym and out on runs; finally they need to last, I have high expectations that my leggings can be washed frequently but still hold their shape.

Beyond my must haves I’m open to anything, as long as the leggings come in black! Here are a few of my favourites right now:

The Best Black Leggings - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

As far as I’m concerned these are the best black leggings out there. The rise is spot on, they hit my ankle in just the right place and the copper colour zip is a nice touch but not too obvious. I’ve had them for nearly a year and wear them all the time, which mean they get washed around twice a week but are still in great condition! The stretchy cotton fabric maybe isn’t the best for sweatier workouts, but for work and out and about these leggings are my go to. Gap doesn’t stock the exact design any more (I knew I should’ve bought two pairs!), but I’ve linked to a close second.

Gap, £72.95

The Best Black Leggings - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

Another pair from from Gap, these tights always get a lot of attention when I wear them! I love the black on black star print as it’s got loads of impact without being over the top, the fabric is super thick and supportive and they’re sweat-wicking which makes them perfect for hot yoga. The only drawback is that sometimes the waist rolls down when I bend, which is annoying but I’ll overlook it for the print!

GapFit, £59.95

The Best Black Leggings - A Pretty Place to Play, London Running and Fitness Blog

One word about these leggings, pockets! I think it must be something to do with how often women’s clothing either lacks pockets or, where it does have them, they’re totally useless, but I get really excited when clothing has big functional pockets. I love that these tights have two huge pockets, one on each thigh, to stash all sorts of bits and bobs, whether its my phone or a stray resistance band. The fabric is super soft and flattering, and there’s a nice big waistband which makes them perfect for after a big meal. Plus they pass the squat test.

Lululemon, £98.00

The Best Black Leggings - A Pretty Place to Play, London Fitness and Running Blog

Lululemon’s Wunder Under pant is pretty much legendary, and with good reason! These leggings are hugely versatile and are my favourites to throw in my bag when I travel. I particularly love that they’re reversible, so if you need to eek one more day out of them you can (I have no shame), and there’s a pocket on the waistband if you need to stash anything securely out of sight (like a credit card or emergency cash!). I’ve had my pair for years and they’ve washed and worn amazingly. Absolutely worth the investment.

Lululemon, £78.00

I know that all four of these picks are at the pricier end of the scale, but I’ve been wearing all of them for years (having bought them myself! None were gifted, and this isn’t a collaborative post), doing all sorts in them and the cost per wear has been exceptional. I’m always going to encourage people to buy the best quality they can afford, you don’t need 10 pairs of tights when one really good pair will do the job. Gap regularly does amazing offers and it’s worth signing up to their email list to be notified of discounts, and Lululemon do the odd sample sale which is well worth the effort to go to, plus you can pick up lightly worn items second hand on Depop and Ebay easily.

Do you have a go to black legging that I’ve not included? Let me know in the comments!