An ode to swimming

SwimmingI still love swimming. Still, because it was the sport of my teenage years and the time I spent dedicated to it had the potential to backfire, as is oft the case. Training took up my Friday nights and Saturday mornings. We swam before school, after school, Sunday afternoons and Monday mornings. We’d spend hours at a time at the pool; whole weekends at galas, sat on poolside eating pasta just waiting for a race that would, all being well, last little more than a minute. My S2000 (brought on the occasion of a victory in 100m back) was my most treasured possession, my Aquablade legsuit the most expensive item in my wardrobe. Swimming made me very happy – a PB after months of training, winning the heat and making a final – but it also made me cry – hitting the wall and looking up only to see I’d gone two tenths of a second over my best time, or losing a place on a relay team because my times weren’t coming down quickly enough.

I still love swimming because of all of these things, not in spite of them. Many of my closest friends are swimmers, most of my relationships have been with swimmers (let’s face it, if they like you in a swimming hat with goggle marks and chlorine blotched skin you are onto a winner!) and I wouldn’t undo even one of those 6am morning sessions or long coach journey home after a gala for anything.

Nowadays I no longer swim for times or medals but I still love that feeling of cutting through the water. Swimming now serves a role in loosening my shoulders after a day sat in front of a computer, stretching out my arms after I’ve been climbing, or lengthening my legs after a long run.

As a low impact highly aerobic exercise swimming can’t be beaten. It can be used to keep your aerobic fitness up during injury, or to supplement functional weight training. It is good for upper body strength as well as for general mobility.

I have to admit that the two hour sets of my teenage years have been replaced by 45 minutes to an hour sessions, but I still write myself training plans, keep up my drills, try to cover a good distance and have recently qualified as a level 1 swimming teacher.

I can’t advocate getting into the pool enough. It’s both a great way to workout and the perfect means of unwinding. For new swimmers, focus on getting your stroke right before you increase your distance, and that means making sure your body position is correct. So many people swim with their bottom low in the water making the whole endeavour that much more difficult. For front crawl think about having the water level at your eyebrows looking forward and your bottom only slightly below the surface of the water. For backstroke make sure you don’t drop your hips and dip in the middle. My bugbear when watching people do backstroke is the stilted way they pull; focus on a smooth continuous motion rather than pausing between arm pulls, it honestly makes it much easier.

TeamI will add some drills to help with perfecting your stroke and session plans to build up your distances in future posts, but all this talk of swimming has given me a chlorine craving so for now I’m heading down to the pool.

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