Half a Century Celebration Swims for RLSS UK Ambassador’
RLSS UK Ambassador, Professor Greg Whyte OBE, is set to get very wet to celebrate his 50th year.
The world renowned sports scientist, physical activity expert and trainer to the stars has challenged
himself to complete 50 swims in all kinds of environments to achieve his fantastic 50@50 goal.
Greg talks to Lifesavers about his crazy year ahead, what is driving him through the challenge and what it’s like to reach 50-years-old!
Lifesavers: The first and most important question – what is it like to be 50?!
Greg: Inside, I still feel like I’m in my teens. When I get in a swim squad session and look at my times I realise that the reality doesn’t always reflect the thinking!
We know you’ve coached others to push themselves and achieve almost unthinkable challenges, what made you decide to challenge yourself in this way?
There are two main reasons why I’m doing 50@50. Firstly, one person drowns every 20 hours in the UK. My Ambassador role with RLSS UK is very important to meand this challenge allows me to do something about the shocking figures by drawing attention to the issue. Secondly, around 9 million adults in the UK can’t swim – that’s a huge proportion for an island nation. It is absolutely fundamental that we teach children and adults to swim. It’s a sport skill that will save your life and my swims will hopefully encourage more people to learn.
Swimming is for all. This is not a campaign for open water or competitive swimmers. This is for everyone, to highlight the importance and encourage them.
There is, of course, a huge element of personal challenge in 50@50. As a former pentathlete, why is swimming your passion out of all of the events?
Swimming is my one true love – don’t tell the wife! It’s where I began. I started competitive swimming from 6-years-old, training regularly. As the years went on I grew to love it more and more and, yeah I was good at it, but it was more the activity itself I loved, and still love.
Tell us a bit more about your challenge and the kinds of swims you are doing.
I have been, and will be swimming in seas, rivers, lakes, reservoirs, ponds and indoor and outdoor pools – I’ve even swam in a specially designed flume which emulates swimming at altitude! Each environment has its own challenges which I want to highlight, and also demonstrate that swimming doesn’t only have to be about going down to your local baths!
The water is a fun and safe environment to play, swim, and keep fit, but it can be dangerous too if you don’t take sensible precautions, which is why the RLSS UK’s water safety messages are so, so important. Whether pool or open water, I wanted to swim in every environment possible during the challenge to help get the message out.
What have you done to prepare for the swims?
I have kept up with open water swimming over the years and have I have kept up with open water swimming over the years and have swam in a number of RLSS UK swims recently, which have been fantastic. I also re-joined the swimming squad for the first time in 17 years! I have trained in the pool with Wycombe District Swimming Club since September– they are fantastic!
How is the challenge going so far?
My first 50@50 challenge was a pool race in January. I hadn’t raced for 17 years so it certainly was a challenge and I was chuffed to have won!
I have since completed a number of further swims. I completed the flume swim – swimming at altitude and completed another pool swim. I have also recently been really busy with Comic Relief and Sport Relief which concluded on 24 March.
One of my next challenges is Best Fest, an open water swimming festival in Majorca which runs at the end of May, beginning of June. It will be an amazing few days during which I hope to complete eight sea swimming events. It’s a fantastic location where elite open water swimmers train, including the GB team so it’s sure to be a tough challenge. I will then be swimming all throughout the year, right
I will then be swimming all throughout the year, right through to December. So at the moment, I’m three down, 47 to go!
Open water swimming is the fastest growing sport in the UK at the moment, why do you think that is?
In 2006 – when I worked with David Walliams to swim the channel – most people thought that if you swam in open water you’re some kind of nutter! Ten years on, popularity has soared for swimming in all kinds of water and you see it constantly now, which is fantastic.
I love the feeling of exploration when you swim in open water, to feel like being where no-one else has been. You can access areas via water that you couldn’t from land. I also love learning the history of where you are swimming. I swam the Brownsea Island swim last year for RLSS UK and loved taking in the history of the island I was swimming around.
The social perspective of open water swimming is also great too. Talking to other swimmers about what drives them and why they love the sport. You chat to all kinds of people from very different backgrounds, of all abilities and ages at many events, which is great.
Finally, what would be your message on the importance of swimming and water safety be to members of the public following your challenge?
I know your readers all understand the importance of swimming as a life skill and are fantastic ambassadors for water safety. It would be great if they could share my challenge within their communities which will hopefully help support their hard work. Swimming is for life. From children before they are born and their pregnant mothers, all the way through to adults – I swam with a lady 87-years of age just recently. I want to enthuse everybody
Swimming is for life. From children before they are born and their pregnant mothers, all the way through to adults – I swam with a lady 87-years of age just recently. I want to enthuse everybody to learn to swim, get better
I want to enthuse everybody to learn to swim, get better at it, or challenge themselves to something new.
Follow Greg’s 50@50 Challenge @ProfessorGregWhyte