How wild swimming transformed life of Somerset man with motor neurone disease

  • Watch our moving interview with Alex Francis, carried out by reporter Victoria Davies.

A man from Somerset who has motor neurone disease says cold water swimming has helped him both physically and mentally.

Alex Francis, who lives in Frome, used to be an ultra-distance runner but had to stop shortly before his diagnosis in 2019, as he kept falling over.

Instead, the 44-year-old has embraced cold water swimming. He says being in the water is his moment of escapism.

Alex Francis from Frome when he was a ultra distance runner Credit: Alex Francis

“In the water, I have so much more movement than I do out of it. I get a real feeling of freedom,” he said.

“Probably the biggest feeling comes from stretching my arms out wide - this is the only time I get to do that. On a really good day, it can feel like I am flying.

“It is so much of a contrast to everyday life where I am basically sat in a chair.”

Alex's life is transformed when he goes swimming - from being in a wheelchair to freedom, as he describes it Credit: ITV News West Country

Motor neurone disease causes progressive loss of voluntary movement and there is no known cure.

Alex can no longer walk and will eventually be unable to hold his head up or speak.

He is married with two children and although the future worries him, he said the water transforms him.

“On the whole, I am coping quite well with accepting my illness but some days it is praying on my mind,” he said.

Alex Francis says wild swimming is his "freedom" Credit: ITV News West Country

Alex's swimming coach says he has noticed improvements in Alex’s physical strength and is now looking to get funding to research how cold water swimming could help others with the same condition. 

Read more: