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Leap In: A Woman, Some Waves and a Will to Swim By Alexandra Heminsley

Release date: 01st January, 2017
Publisher: Hutchinson

List Price: £12.99
Our Price: £9.09
You Save: £3.9 (30%)
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‘Candid, funny and inspiring’ was how Alexandra Heminsley’s 2014 sporty bestseller, Running Like a Girl, was described by one critic, a synopsis with which it’s difficult to argue, but could she attract rave reviews again, this time away from dry land, while conquering a fear of swimming in the sea with Leap In?

Time will tell as the book was only published on 12 January, but your reviewer would suggest the plaudits will arrive faster than an incoming tide.

Perhaps the only peculiar aspect of Leap In comes towards the end when readers are treated to an unexpected history of swimming. Here we discover that the Tudors used pig’s intestines as armbands and that a large number of suffragettes were swimmers, though swimming as a pastime is a comparatively modern phenomenon.

Heminsley starts her quest armed with one great advantage: she lives in Brighton. Prompted by the loss of her new husband’s wedding ring (to the sea), she enrols at an open water beginners’ course, keen to avoid merely ‘recreational splashing’. Once she has become comfortable donning the neoprene water suits – and there are some very amusing descriptions of how she looks when fully-clad in the same – Heminsley turns out to be a very fast learner.

Soon she is embarking on her first river swim, a 3.8 kilometre jaunt along the Arun in West Sussex, where she encounters a clutch of men doing what blokes do as they limber up: laughing, joking and generally messing about prior to the serious business of getting involved in sport. While no consolation, it’s easy to see how a lone female could be intimidated by this boyish behaviour, but the author doesn’t suffer any long term damage and she completes her swim, comfortably exceeding even her own expectations.

In many respects, Leap In reminded me of Tim Moore’s cycling memoirs. Yes, they’re funny, well-observed tomes, but they’re also underpinned by the often Herculean effort of an ordinary guy taking on a major sporting challenge. Heminsley achieves something very similar as she tackles a fear of open sea swimming, rapidly progressing to several other impressive swimming challenges.

“Life can’t be spent as a spectator; we have to get in and take part,” she advises. Anyone having second thoughts about their new year resolution to ‘get fit’ should read Leap In because they’re guaranteed to stick with the undertaking they made on 1st January after reading what is best described as a candid, funny and inspiring book.

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