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Cold Water Therapy: Sara Barnes' Journey to Empowerment and Healing

Hello, and welcome back to "Retirement Rebel." This is your host, Siobhan Daniels, ready to dive into a truly inspiring episode. Now, usually, our introductions set the scene for what's to come, and today's no different. We've covered three pivotal topics that inform our conversation and, without a doubt, will resonate with many.

Firstly, we broached the subject of physical and emotional rejuvenation through an activity as challenging yet reinvigorating as cold water swimming. Sara Barnes eloquently shares her voyage of discovery, having turned to the icy embrace of open waters after a surgery that tested her both physically and mentally. It's remarkable how embracing the chill of nature has not just been a path to recovery for Sara but a route to finding a community, a sense of self, and an enduring strength that defies expectations.

The second key subject is the power of a supportive community. It's a recurring theme that I hold dear on this podcast. Sara's story underscores the importance of women lifting each other up—especially us women who are navigating midlife and beyond. The fact that Sara's book, "Cold Fix," is selling like hotcakes indicates that the message of unity and shared strength, particularly among those who might feel left out by society, is getting through.

Lastly, we touch upon the idea of rewriting the script for our lives as we age. Whether it's overcoming ingrained fears or embarking on new adventures, we discuss how essential it is to trample those self-limiting beliefs and embrace a 'what's the worst that can happen' attitude. Sara embodies this rebellious spirit, not just in her day-to-day life but also through the empowering words she commits to the page. We both advocate for an outlook on ageing that is positive, proactive, and unapologetically spirited.

These subjects aren't just idle chatter. They're profound insights offering a lens into the way we, as a community of rebels, approach the autumn of our lives—not as a time to wind down, but as a new chapter to embark upon with a gung ho spirit and a warrior’s heart. Let's carry these themes throughout our conversation today and see where they lead us. Let's continue to challenge ageism together, embracing every splash of cold water and every twist in our path as we share this rebel life.

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Key Points:

04:02 Sportive cycling events across rugged terrain, challenging fun.

09:23 Underestimated surgery recovery, needed help from family.

13:13 Understanding and overcoming feelings of darkness.

14:30 Kids organised a crucial, uplifting recovery picnic.

18:22 Discovering Instagram, global connections, and self-discovery.

22:07 Women's podcast promotes self-discovery and inspiration.

24:18 Agreement, action, and support for women's empowerment.

28:02 Middle-aged characters rediscover self-love through swimming.

33:13 Embracing ageing positively and sharing vibrant adventures.

33:56 Advice: Address physical limitations for active years.

39:44 Early rebel sneaks into backyard bathtub. Plasterer warned.

42:55 Discovering inner warrior, challenging ageism, enabling women.

43:56 Connect with us to keep the conversation.

Guest Info

Sara Barnes

From cycling hundreds of miles in the mountains to being unable to walk more than a few steps without pain, I have learnt the hard way how to grow old actively. From the moment I first immersed in cold water following major leg surgery in February 2017 I felt it begin to heal me and unlock my creative and romantic spirit.

I have wanted to be a published author since I had high tea with my Great Aunty Milly in Hove, Sussex and she pinned me down with her beady eyes and told me I would be a writer. Dreams do come true, even if you have to wait and keep trying for many years, like me. The Cold Fix, a narrative non fiction book was published when I was 60, then my debut novel, The Winter of Our Lives, when I was 61. Now, at the age of 62, although I'm not as mobile as I used to be I still have an adventurous spirit. My mantra is that you are never too old to follow your dreams, fall in love, skinny dip in a mountain stream or write another book.

I swam with Simon Reeves in an episode of his The Lakes on BBC2 in 2022 and chatted on BBC Woman's Hour about my personal challenge of swimming with 60 different people in 60 different places in my 60th year. I've recently downsized and moved in a small town after 30 years of rural isolation. My dream is to buy a tiny piece of land in Scotland or France. It has to have a stupendous view, access to good water and room to park my campervan, Gloria.

Links and Resources:


"I don't think I really appreciated how bad it was going to be. I think I still had that warrior mentality and I still thought, I'm invincible, I can do this."

"So if you can absorb that knowledge, get them to show you how to do something, then you can do it yourself."

"I found that there was this great big tribe, if you like, of equally crazy people who just love being in the cold water."

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