Charmian Frend’s Inspirational Ice Swim For Pain

Charm Frend
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May 24, 2022

Charmian Frend shares her inspirational swim for pain. Charm started swim teaching years ago at Balmoral Beach in Sydney as a play job and as her back pain developed and it later became her only job. Here, she shares her journey.

I was never not going to attempt the swim but when your body is a bit wonky, committing to something like an ice swim challenge is never a straightforward decision.

Last year my body and brain were ready, but COVID and travel limitations meant it wasn’t to be.

This year the travel looks ok but COVID is still a consideration, and my body decided to do something a bit strange a couple of months ago that needed checking out. Standard procedure for pain patients I think.

Good news is that I checked out OK and I’m going to give this swim a shot.

The aim is to swim as far as I can in under 5 degrees – just in a swimsuit, 1 cap and goggles. The ladies world record is 3.3km  – I’m currently 6th in the world, and the men record is now 4.75km (it was 3.91 up to about a month ago). In Australia, I’m the top female and the only one to do an Ice Mile (1.6km in under 5 degrees) and an extreme Ice Mile (2km) which I did within 3 days.

My plan is to travel to Jindabyne in mid July and swim. Location will either be in Thredbo or Crackenback depending on which body of water is under 5 degrees.  Here I would like to give a shout out to those who have given money to help with accommodation expenses. Gratefully appreciated, as for some strange reason the snow fields are a popular and therefore expensive place to visit this year!

I’ve assembled a good strong support crew which includes medical staff, coach, water safety people, observers, recorders and supporters. These people actually have the hard job on the day – all I have to do is swim.

charm frend
Charmian Frend at Balmoral – painting by Veronica Colvin who is one of Charmian’s students @veronicacolvin

With 8 weeks to go, I’ve settled into a training routine. My plan is based on swimming 4km.

The squad swim is held at Manly pool with Coach Narelle Simpson. In 90 minutes, I cover around 4.5km.

In between, I give a few swim lessons at Balmoral, do training at Marine Rescue Middle Harbour, hang with the hounds and strangely enough sleep a bit.

Before 100% committing to the swim I tested my body building up to the above timetable. If I found my body or brain were unable to cope with what I need to do to give this my best shot – it wasn’t worth it. At some point I have managed to get to be a little bit more sensible.

I’m enjoying it.

I enjoy the challenge of seeing what my body can do in combination with my brain. It takes work and training on both. Mentally, I believe most days I can do this and when I have doubt I just trust in the process. I look at what I have to do in the next day for training and plan for that rather than panic about something 8 weeks away.

I’m not a “rah you go girl” kind of trainer or coach actually, but I think that confidence comes from trusting those around you who are helping and trusting in yourself. And just getting the work done.

Medically – yep I have pain. It’s always there but learning about why it is there and why it sometimes is not logical in that it mostly never correlates with what’s going on (pain patients will get this) allows me to give myself “permission” as such to keep going.

This week had challenges – I have migraines – not the vomiting, turn the lights out ones but a constant headache. Normally they are 4/10 pain wise and I can deal with that. But once they settle in and start to build they become a regular 7-8/10. That’s not fun especially on top of nerve pain from the back. To assist with back pain I have a spinal cord stimulator implanted in my spine and it involves electrodes in the spinal column helping to pacify nerve pain. On Tues of this week I had some very very big needles stuck in my head and along with some steroid and anesthetic a radio pulse was sent to the angry nerves to “burn” them to keep them quiet. And yes I am awake when it happens.

All of this has been done at the Pain Clinic at North Shore. These procedures along with mental training have allowed me to function with Chronic Pain. That’s why I’m raising money for them so others can benefit.

Many of you have donated already and for that I thank you. You may know someone that may be able to help so feel free to send this on.

I will send through updates as I can but promise not to spam. Snippets will be on the social media pages and also on the Pain Foundation website:

A few people are helping me out training wise but if you know of anyone who would be keen on sponsorship I’d love to hear. At this stage my biggest expense has been ice – weird.

How to donate

You can donate for Charms Ice Swim for Pain below: 

 For updates head to:

Facebook: Charms Ice Swim for Pain

Instagram: @charmsiceswimforpain


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