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All dive in for the Great North Swim!

Tags: Exercise , Fitness

All dive in for the great north swimThe Great North Swim has proved hugely popular since its launch last year, with 5,000 entrants anticipated in 2009. If you're not among them, there are plenty of other incentives to get active through swimming - and even train for the next Great Swim!

The Great North Swim was launched in September 2008 and reached its entry limit of 2,500 swimmers in just a few weeks, say the event's organisers. Owing to its success, the event will be held over two days this year, allowing 5,000 swimmers to take part.

The one-mile, open water swim takes place on September 12-13 at the Low Wood Hotel and Marina on the east side of Windermere, England's largest lake. The entrance fee is £30, and many of the participants will be swimming to raise money for charity. Mind, Diabetes UK, Cancer Research UK, Guide Dogs and Rainbow Trust are among the charities supporting this year's event.
As well as the Great North Swim, three more swims have been added to this year's schedule in different regions of the country: The Great London Swim, The Great Scottish Swim and the final event this year, the Great East Swim, which takes place on September 26 at Alton Water in Suffolk. 

Who can take part?

Anyone over the age of 16 who can swim a mile confidently can take part in the challenge. According to the organisers, "The Swim is designed to motivate people to get active, and we hope that people who aren’t regular swimmers will give themselves plenty of time to train up and participate in this event."
"We want to attract people who have never swum in open water or entered a swimming race. There was a time when running a marathon or half marathon was just for seasoned club runners; now it’s an all inclusive event open to anyone willing to put in the time to train. The same goes for this swim."
The Great Swim attracts not only amateur swimmers but also elite athletes, such as Olympic medallists Keri-Anne Payne, David Davies and Cassie Patten (winner of last year's Great North Swim), who were among those competing in the inaugural Great London Swim in August. 

"Bigger than expected" success for free swimming initiative

Swimming has a central role in the government’s 'Be Active, Be Healthy' strategy, which aims to get an extra 2 million people more physically active by the time the Olympic Games comes to London in 2012.
As part of the strategy, a £140 million free swimming initiative was launched earlier this year and has proved even more popular than expected, according to the government. More than 1,000 local authority pools in England have been offering free swimming since April, with over 250 councils backing the scheme.
In the first three months of the scheme, there were 1.6 million visits to pools by the over-60s and 2.8 million free swimming sessions taken up young people aged 16 and under.
Ben Bradshaw, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport, commented, “We never had any doubt that free swimming was going to make a splash – but it has shown itself to be an even bigger success with people, young and old, than we had ever expected."
The popularity of the free sessions in the pool shows "the power of swimming", said David Sparkes, chief executive of swimming’s governing body, the ASA. He added, "All the research pointed to a massive latent demand for swimming and this initiative seems to have put a light to the blue touch paper." 

Fitness benefits of swimming

According to personal trainer Lucy Wyndham-Read, swimming is one of the best forms of regular physical activity for people of all ages and fitness levels. "Whether you’re an absolute beginner or a fitness fanatic, swimming is an excellent way to tone up, improve your cardiovascular health, lower your blood pressure and leave you feeling fighting fit," she says.
Unlike some other popular exercises, such as aerobics and running, swimming has no impact on your joints, says Lucy. "When you’re swimming, you are fully supported, so it's one of the safest activities you can do. It tones your entire body while still providing you with a great workout."
For those who would like to enter for one of the Great Swim events next year, the official website offers a training room where you can access expert advice and personalised training schedules to help you prepare for the challenge. The training room also provides expert advice, tips and training plans for a range of other sports and physical activities, including running, dancing, cycling and walking.
Useful website addresses:
Great Swim:
Training room:
British Swimming and the ASA:

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