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↠ T H E   S P I N D R I F T E R   S E R I E S ↠

Today we are excited to introduce you to the next of our Spindrifters – Helen Dickens, Helen is an awesome weekend adventurer, open water swimmer and mother who we have been following on Instagram for a while.

Helen inspires us as she is an amazing example of someone who enjoys fantastic adventures, but manages to squeeze them in at the weekends and before work, alongside having a full time job and a family!

She takes part in about 10 big events a year – swimming, running & cycling as separate disciplines or combined as duathlon or triathlon, but Helen’s big passion is open water swimming and she swims all year round in the River Thames (brrrr!!!).

Lets dive in and found out more about her and what Bobble hat breastroke” is!

How did you come to be an open water swimmer?

I grew up by the sea so swam a lot off the beaches in Devon and Cornwall as a child. However, it was watching the women’s Olympic Triathlon in Hyde Park in 2012 that I decided I needed to learn to swim in open water properly so I could complete a triathlon.

↠ What’s your big vision // dream for the next few years?

This summer I completed a 10k open water swim which is the marathon distance and had been my big vision and dream for a long time.  I had been thinking about it for a few years and took a year to train and prepare for it.  Having done that I don’t have the next big goal fixed in my mind but am very tempted by swim/run/Otillo.  I would also like to own a SUP!

Tell us what typical day for you looks like?

During the week I work full time (as an HR Director) so try to fit some sport in before work.  At the weekend I am up early to swim, run or cycle before spending time with my family.

↠ When you’re not busy swimming, where can we find you?

I love trail running in the countryside near my house with my husband or hiking with my family.

↠ What has been your most important & defining moment so far?

Personally, becoming a parent.  Sports-wise my husband dared me to take part in a cycle sportive in 2011.  It was the first event I took part in as an adult and have become addicted to training for an event, pinning on my number and getting a medal at the end!

↠ Tell us about your personal connection to our wild and beautiful natural landscapes + what do you do to minimise your impact on them?

Growing up in Devon near to the coast and Dartmoor (UK) meant that a strong link with nature was made then.  We did a lot of hiking and sailing and memories include hunting for shells & sea glass on the beach,  collecting white pebbles to drop into the sea off our boat, picking wortleberries (a bit like blueberries) on Dartmoor and hiking to the granite tours.  Spending as much time as possible outside was seen as critically important and that feeling continues with me as an adult.

In terms of minimising impact I think doing all the right things such as taking rubbish home and sticking to the trail is instinctive.  I also think it is important to teach the next generation the value of being outside and ensure that  my son can enjoy and relax in nature and learn about the landscape,  flora and fauna.

↠ What two key things have you learnt in your adventurous path which continue to push you forward?

I always sign up for events that I feel are a bit beyond me to motivate me to train hard and achieve a bit more.  I also like try things that are a bit scary for me.   This year I have done caving and climbing which were way out of my comfort zone and great fun.

↠ Who/what do you look to for inspiration? // Who/what makes your heart light up?

There are lots of people at my open water swimming club (HOWSC) who are hugely inspiring.  There are people who swim all year round, are relentless passionate about swimming  as much as possible along the stretches of our local river and accomplish all kinds of open water swimming feats.

↠ What is your favourite quote and why does it particularly resonate with you?

Heraclitus, a Greek philosopher born in 544 b.c. said, “No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.” Every open water swim in unique.  This is especially true of swimming in the River Thames and it is privilege to experience the river throughout the seasons.

↠ What’s next on your horizon? // What can we expect to see?

Winter means trail running so looking forward to muddy hills,  autumn open water swimming means beautiful misty mornings and “Bobble hat breastroke” in winter (When the water is too cold to put your face in, breaststroke is the way to go and a nice warm hat makes a big difference).

↠ What advice would you have for someone who wants to follow in your footsteps? 

Swimming lessons are the best investment in time and money you can make.  Also open water induction sessions are invaluable to ensure you feel safe and confident in open water.

Thanks so much Helen, its been a pleasure to get to know you. If you are keen to follow Helen’s adventures she can be found on Instagram at @hennieswims


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