Lockdown Learning – how one member of the iTAB Team took the leap!

We catch up with iTAB Senior Account Manager, Debbie Fish, to find out all about her exciting new venture into Open Water Swimming Coaching.

You’ve managed to fully-utilise your time away from the iTAB office, whilst on furlough, to get fully qualified as an Open Water Swimming Coach – amazing! Tell me more…
Having completed Windermere One Way last year, I had the urge to do something different, to help other swimmers achieve their goals.  On the 1st January 2020, I joined the Swimming Teachers’ Association (STA – https://www.sta.co.uk/about-us/) and I signed up to take the internationally recognised STA Level 2 Open Water Swimming Coaching Qualification (Open Water Swimming Coaching).

The course was due to take place face-to-face with other delegates over three days in May; perfect for the UK’s open water swimming season.  Little did any of us know at the start of the year though, how COVID-19 would destroy so many lives and impact livelihoods on such a global level.  

So, part of the course was held over Zoom for two days in May, delivered directly by Keri-anne Payne; 2008 Beijing Olympic silver medallist and double world champion 10k marathon swimmer, straight into the homes of seven other budding coaches.  After the two days, each ‘coach-to-be’ had to complete a formal and extensive written portfolio on the theory of open water swimming coaching.  

The practical assessment day was the last part of the qualification and it was fantastic to meet some of the other ‘soon to be qualified’ coaches and to see Keri-anne in person, who was incredibly supportive and encouraging (and post-course continues to be so).  Prior to the final day, I had practiced some of my session plans on willing friends and family, thank you Nick, Ellie, Kirsty, Justin, Lucy and Laura!

Can you tell me more about what’s involved in being an Open Water Swimming coach? 
To be an effective open water swimming coach, an individual needs to be organised (lots of paperwork/legislation), reflective, knowledgeable, honest, motivational, approachable and encouraging.  The coach should have good observation and communication skills whilst being able to deliver enjoyable and inclusive coaching sessions in a safe environment.


I’m new to Open Water Swimming – what do I need to know?
Contact your local open water swimming coach for an introductory session on getting into the water safely! Seriously… safety first, all of the time, every time.  Each body of open water has different characteristics and risks and swimming in open water is vastly different to swimming in an indoor pool.  I would recommend researching locally managed open water swimming venues where safety cover is provided, before taking the plunge!  If wild swimming takes your fancy; do your homework on the location, swim with at least one other person and have a spotter on land observing you, making sure you stay safe.  Outdoorswimmer.com is a really useful resource.

What locations will you be coaching your clients at?
I am so excited to be able to offer coaching at a range of different locations along the M3, M4 and South Coast at managed open water swimming venues, in rivers, ponds and the sea.

We have to mention the name ‘Swim Like A Fish’ – it was written in the stars! Did you have the name in your head from the beginning? 
Absolutely! I married into the ‘Fish’ family long before I found open water swimming, so I am certain that my life in and around the water was just meant to be!  On some of my personal swimming social media posts, I have used #swimlikeafish much to my own amusement!  Having invested in a dryrobe last year, I decided to get it customised with the same hashtag so as to easily identify one blue dryrobe from another!

When did you first discover your own love of swimming in the great outdoors? 
I fell into open water as a child, having wandered away from the rest of my family and it was a terrifying experience.  I was subsequently taught how to swim, and in my teens I joined a life-saving swimming club where we would venture into the choppy, cold North Sea.  I moved to the Lake District in the early 1990s, and I fell in love with the lakes and I would often go for a ‘wild swim’.  I then started swimming more regularly in open water in 2015 and I have loved the freedom of swimming outside and taking part in open water swimming events ever since.  I respect the open water and thankfully I have never been fearful of it.

What are your Top 5 Open Water/Wild Swim spots that you’ve taken a dip in? 
I have been known to throw caution to the wind (when it is safe to do so) and some of my most memorable dips have been in the winter months, getting close to nature, whilst wearing a swimsuit or just a woolly hat and a frozen grin!

Windermere in the Lake District in the UK 
Just quite simply a stunning vast, cold, dark and haunting expanse of water.  I enjoyed dipping here in the early 1990s and again in 2018 and 2019.

Wast Water, in the Lake District in the UK
A very deep, dark, thrilling and cold glacial lake where I have dipped in April and January over the last couple of years. 

Eel Tarn, also in the Lake District!  
On a misty cold January day this year, I took a quick dip in the peaty shallows, with my iTAB work family standing by. 

Cretan Sea, just off the North Coast of Crete, Near Elounda
I found a like-minded swimming buddy, Steve, and we enjoyed hours of swimming together in the wonderful, deep blue, warm sea.

Bay of Kotor, Montenegro
Swimming together as part of a group, one of my most memorable swims was taking in the scenery around two islets, Saint George and Our Lady of the Rocks in the beautifully warm, brackish water, in Perast.  

You swam Windermere One Way last year – are you planning anymore swimming challenges yourself? Or are you planning to coach others to fulfil their own Open Water Swim Challenges?
Thoughts of Two Way Windermere regularly pop into my head, much to my husband’s bemusement!  For now, I will support, inspire and motivate swimmers of all ages and abilities to set their own goals and achieve them.  Whether that’s someone overcoming a fear and getting into the open water for the first time, a leisurely swimmer wanting to feel more confident in the water, an experienced swimmer training for a marathon swim or a triathlete wishing to obtain a new personal best or perfect their buoy turns… I’ll be there with them every stroke of the way.

If you fancy honing your open water swimming skills or want to learn more about Swim Like A Fish, please contact Debbie on +44 (0)7904 280563 via e-mail at debbiefish@live.co.uk or on social media:

https://www.instagram.com/swim_likeafish/
https://www.facebook.com/swimlikeafishowsc/
https://twitter.com/swim_likeafish
https://www.linkedin.com/company/swimlikeafish