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It’s the sensation of a sedentary life cracking wide open

I wouldn’t say it was extremely comforting when, seconds before my first attempt at cold-water swimming at my local pond, as I hovered near the steps, my skin chill against the air, the jovial lifeguard started to tell me about sudden-immersion syndrome. “People can die, because they go into shock,” she explained, eyes focused on something in the distant trees. “But you’ll be fine. Just don’t panic.”

In the summer, I jump into the pond with the enthusiasm of a labrador – ears flying, paws spread skywards. (This was especially the case during last summer’s heatwave, two months of feeling conflicted – the utter joy of that slightly grassy smell of warm forearms, tempered by the fact that the planet is, well, screwed.) Summer swimming is all about the refreshing feel of hair slicked back from the forehead after hours of enduring a sticky, matted mess. Or the tessellating, shimmering patterns of light at the bottom of a hotel pool.

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