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Non-fiction book of month: Leap In by Alexandra Heminsley

(49 Posts)
RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 09-Jan-17 13:24:39

Alexandra Heminsley joined us for a webchat on publication of her last book Running Like a Girl - where she shared the pain and joy of running her first marathon. Last year she embarked on a new challenge; she decided to learn how to go from a head-above-the-water-slow-lane-swimmer to a full-on wet-suit-clad sea-swimmer. Leap In documents her experience of learning to swim and looks at the benefits of cold-water swimming for both mind and body. She rounds off with a fascinating look at the history of swimming.

If you'd like to read this inspiring, funny and insightful new book, apply for one of 50 free copies. Once you've read the book come back to this thread and let us know what you think.

Whether you've read the book or not, we're offering everyone the chance to put your questions to author Alexandra Heminsley. Post your Qs up before Monday 13 February and we'll post up Alexandra's answers before the end of the month.

CMOTDibbler Mon 09-Jan-17 13:30:05

I have my Kindle copy on pre order, so will report back. I loved Running Like a Girl (and ran my first marathon last year), and have been open water swimming for 2 years now (though safely in my wetsuit!) so am really looking forward to reading Leap In

BrianBettyGrable Mon 09-Jan-17 21:37:05

Really looking forward to this. Firmly a fair weather indoor swimmer at the moment, but after reading this, who knows..

Sunnynko3 Tue 10-Jan-17 23:00:48

I can not wait to read your new book. You are the person who is responsible that i am running almost everyday. I hate running before and now i could not wait till morning. Thanks for everything

BellFromBow Wed 11-Jan-17 20:04:27

Do you still get scared that weeds brushing on your leg are massive sharks?! I get shark fear in the bath. Wonder if some open water swimming would help!

Hissy Fri 13-Jan-17 16:27:14

I was utterly moved by the Guardian article and would love to read this book! I'm relatively new to swimming, but setting myself challenges and achieving them for the first time in my life.

CMOTDibbler Fri 13-Jan-17 19:49:57

I really, really, really enjoyed this book. In spite of following Hemmo on Twitter and FB, I still wasn't quite sure how the book would read. But the first part really was a compelling read whether you were interested in swimming or not, and the second very interesting and useful (apart from to my bank balance as I look at new stuff to buy..).

As someone whose body let her down a lot - recurrent miscarriages, then disability, coming to sport in my 40's has been very affirming.
I've run a marathon - and used tips from Running Like a Girl, but the open water swimming that I started to do triathlons has just been a beautiful experience. Last summer I joined (well, we started it after a random conversation at a try canoeing event while I was waiting for DS) a social wild swimming group, and swimming down the river, stopping to chat, freaking out people on moored narrow boats on a sunny evening is unlike anything else.
Unlike running (avidly avoided all my life), I've always swum - in the outdoor pool in my home town, in the river there, but never in an organised way. Now I love the headspace as I plow up an down the pool at lunchtime lanes (and resonate deeply with not knowing who people are out of the pool), and once I relearnt how to swim - now with one arm - its been a constant in our lives.

I'm still not convinced about cold water and no wetsuit though!

RachelMumsnet (MNHQ) Mon 16-Jan-17 16:08:08

Great to hear there's already much interest in the book and thanks for your review CMOTdibbler - v impressed with the outdoor canal swimming club. At MNHQ there's a bunch of us who venture up to outdoor ponds in the Summer and I completely agree about the headspace.

We've closed the giveaway and will be notifying all those who have been allocated books before the end of the day. If you're keen to learn more about outdoor swimming, Alexandra Heminsley will be answering your questions - whether you have been allocated a copy or not - so please do post them up on this thread before 13 February. If you weren't lucky but still want to read Leap In, buy a copy (£9.09) or download the e-book (£8.99).

Lovelybangers Tue 17-Jan-17 15:37:25

Hooray I was a winner. Looking forward to reading it

Hygellig Tue 24-Jan-17 10:05:21

Hi Alexandra, I heard you on Woman's Hour recently. I was quite surprised that you said that swimming makes you dehyrdated because you sweat, which is why you often feel hungry after swimming. Is this true? I never feel thirsty when I swim and always assumed that you didn't sweat in the pool, because the water keeps your body cool. (Also not pleasant to think that in addition to all the snot the pool is also full of everyone's sweat!)

Lovelybangers Thu 26-Jan-17 13:36:11

My book arrived today.

Am looking forward to settling down this evening to make a start

Thanks mnet smile

doctorboo Thu 26-Jan-17 18:53:21

I'm very pleased, my copy arrived today. Looking forward to starting it tomorrow. I have a good feeling about it just from having a quick flick through.

Hygellig Fri 27-Jan-17 10:06:06

My copy arrived today thank you - didn't realise I'd been selected. Looking forward to reading it soon.

Lovelybangers Fri 27-Jan-17 10:10:24

Addictive reading!

I read all of Part 1 before going to sleep last night.

Will report back properly once i have read Part 2.

ghostwatch Sat 28-Jan-17 00:39:06

So pleased to have got my copy in the post today ! I will begin reading tonight smile

Lovelybangers Sun 29-Jan-17 10:20:28

I finished my book yesterday.

Loved it - was one of those books that you can't put down. I do like to read about other people's personal challenges and life journeys.

I am still at the beginner stage of swimming I guess. Can do breaststroke until the cows come home- but anything more professional like front crawl and i splash about in an ungainly manner, getting nowhere. So have been considering swimming lessons to improve on this - hence a timely read.

One thing that resonated with me was your dislike of bare feet on anything dirty i.e squelchy mud, and slimy reeds etc. Ugh. I am similarly weird - I don't even like to walk on grass wearing shoes. grin

Another thing which made your story more enjoyable to me- was that it is all set in Brighton and Hove. I don't live anywhere near, but have visited often - as a good friend lives there. It helps to visualise the route that you swim between the piers and the seafront.

My question for the thread: What's next ? You have conquered running (must read that one as I am a runner) and swimming. Will you go for cycling?

Thank you for an entertaining, very well written and thought provoking read Alexandra - and good luck for any future challenges.

Iwantacampervan Sun 29-Jan-17 13:29:42

I'm looking forward to reading this - it's next on my list.

matildasmama Tue 31-Jan-17 12:49:41

Absolutely loved this book. Read it over 2 nights. What an amazing, fearless woman. I'm not particularly interested in sea swimming but that, for me, wasn't the point of the book. It is about achieving your goals and how to do that, even though she had major wobbles she carried on, determined to succeed. Even when her challenges were out of her control, Alexandra had developed the necessary mindset to accept them and just keep breathing...loved it!!!

matildasmama Tue 31-Jan-17 12:51:15

Will definitely read 'Running like a Girl'...

mumnrg Wed 01-Feb-17 13:15:42

I received a free copy and finished it in 24hours. I loved it for a range of differnt reasons, here are some:
1. I grew up loving swimming but realise some people don't have the same affinity for the water. Alexandra's book gave me an insight into how others might feel and more empathy for their feelings in so many different situations
2. The description of learning front crawl for open water, as an adult is brilliant. Moving to the pool to open water is not automatic but her commitment sees her through until she joins the experienced crowd.
3. On my last summer holiday I joined an early morning sea swim, and like the author nervously joined the experienced swimmers, and the kayak guide. We saw a turtle no one else got to see and the early morning water was glorious.
4. At the end of part one there is a paragraph about how grief never leaves you. thank you for expressing this so well.

I am recommending the book, which speaks to so many of us for different reasons as a brilliant, if unusual read.

Lovelybangers Wed 01-Feb-17 15:16:48

I actually swam in the public pool today for the first time in ages. I was really excited about it - which is likely due to reading this book.

Think I will be aching tomorrow!

Hygellig Thu 02-Feb-17 10:34:37

I finished Leap In yesterday and found it very inspiring. I am a reasonably competent pool swimmer but, although I've always liked the idea of open water swimming (well, maybe not in winter in the UK without a wetsuit), I've never done very much of it. I swim in the sea a little on holiday, and have had the occasional cooling dip in a river, but haven't swum any long distances outdoors.

Some further questions:

1. Are there sea swimming meet-ups in Brighton that people can just join in on an ad-hoc basis? We live in the Midlands nowhere near the sea, but go to Hove a few times a year to visit my husband's family. And is the water generally clean enough to swim in in Brighton - my husband is convinced it is very polluted (not that he would go in anyway, as he hates cold water).

2. Is it easy to learn to change your swimming style when it has been ingrained for years? I always breathe on my right when doing front crawl, and try as I might I just can't breathe on the other side. Nor can I do tumble turns.

Thank you.

bernie77 Thu 02-Feb-17 11:29:09

An interesting book, which I enjoyed though I found it hard to believe how wrapped up she got in breathing. But I now know that my recurring rotor cuff tendonitis problems are all to do with my poor 'front crawl' technique, so thank you for that information.

doctorboo Thu 02-Feb-17 15:36:20

Absolutely loved Leap In! Both parts were extremely interesting and I've sticky noted the bits I want to read again/explore more blush .
The book was very honest and open, it felt real if that makes sense? No artifice.
I loved that it started with the familiarity of a pool and then (sorry for the pun) swept me up as Alex's journey progressed through different bodies of water.
I'll be recommending Leap In to my local book group 👍🏻

SallySwann Thu 02-Feb-17 21:39:59

I found this to be much more of a gripping read than I first anticipated, though I had heard good things of Alexandra's previous work "Running Like A Girl". So it was that the struggle to conquer the sea, primarily between the piers at Brighton, is beautifully described in a very readable fashion. So it is that part one of the book is a lovely read, though I found Alexandra's fight to have a child so sad, it was clearly good that her dedication to swimming was a distraction. I loved the settings of, in particular, Brighton, Littlehampton, Lewes and the Lakes, as these are all places dear to me. So, the first 140 pages or so - very good. But then, part two and how disappointing, this part felt like a large addendum and is very much a filler. I wanted more on how Alexandra and her new husband battled for a child and her further exploits in finding more and more places to swim. The first part was the main bit and by far and away the best bit.

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