To say I like swimming would be an utter lie. I feel the same way about it as cats do and whilst unfortunately I didn’t have claws as a kid, I did have forged sick notes.
If only swimming was more fun! As a kid up to the age of twelve, swimming was a torturous affair. We had a teeny unheated outdoor swimming pool (we once saw ice around the edges) with no showers and our classroom as our changing room. As for those horrid tight plastic caps that wrenched at your hair no matter how much talc you shoved in there, don’t get me started. No, swimming, it seemed was another form of torture that schools had invented, like maths. The only saving grace was that we had badges to work for and it was with great pride that I’d bring another home for mum to sew onto my swimming costume.
If I thought swimming would get any better once I got older and we had indoor pools, then I was seriously mistaken. Swimming at ‘big school’ was just horrendous. In an all girls school, swimming lessons are the perfect breeding ground for eating disorders and bullying. You also had to deal with the onset of puberty and people stealing your clothes. No, swimming wasn’t for me.
So when Speedo set me the challenge of trying out their Speedo Fit app, I knew it was time to get my hair wet and take the plunge. After all, I knew it was a great all-round exercise and with a pool at my local Fitness First I had no excuses.
At 4.30pm on a dreary Sunday, I pulled on my new bright pink Speedo swimming costume (I didn’t feel like a mis-matched bikini would honour the occasion), and walked tentatively to the pool.
In one lane, there was a swimming lesson. In the other two were several toned young gentlemen splashing up and down – seemingly with more splash than speed. That comforted me slightly – my aim was to be as unobtrusive as possible and I felt confident my splashes would be discreet. Choosing my lane, I slipped into the toasty water and began my breaststroke journey, looking not unlike a rather harried cat doing their best to float on the water rather than in it. Don’t get my hair wet!
Earlier that week, I had downloaded the Speedo App and set myself a challenge: to complete the Great London Swim. Now let’s not jump to conclusions here, I’m not actually going to swim it – after all, it’s outside and there could be sharks and stuff – but I am going to swim the length of it. Download the (free) Speedo App and one of the first things you’ll see is a set of challenges you can choose from. These are all based around real distances.
The Great London Swim is a good starter swim – it’s ‘not too far’ and if you live in London it helps that you can relate to the area. Plus, I know from the app that there’s over 10,000 other people swimming it too. Here’s where I admit I did all this a little backwards. It does tell you on the app how many lengths your chosen challenge is but I didn’t look at any of that – my swimming pool was smaller than most and all the maths to work it out would just hurt my head. So my tactics were simple: just swim and count the lengths.
In my head, I had visions of a beautifully peaceful swim where I had time to think over important life matters and daydream. Whilst the reality was filled with avoiding lane-swerving splashers and startling screams from the poor child bellyflopping into the shallow end, I enjoyed it. It’s a unique feeling stretching your limbs in the water and instead of a relaxing session I focused on speed and occasionally my breathing (you’d have thought that after 32 years if have mastered this). I discovered the app also has great videos for technique including how to breathe properly for breaststroke so perhaps my next swim session will be less ‘gasping, flappy bird’ and more ‘placid frog’.
Now swimming pools aren’t what I’d call ‘social places’ but it seems a bright pink outfit attracts attention. A young man struck up conversation (he apologised for splashing my face) and his reason for being there was interesting; a few years ago he nearly drowned on holiday in Mallorca after believing his school swimming lessons were enough to get him from land to a boat in the sea. They weren’t. Since then he’s set himself the challenge to swim at between 750m – 1000m a week. Unlike me, who attempts everything all in one go, this gentleman takes several breaks from his swim to hang out in the sauna or steam room. Cop out or not, it did make me rethink how I could manage my swim.
As it was, I completed 34 lengths of the pool. My body felt stretched and less tense and whilst I hadn’t ever gotten out of breath, I felt like I’d worked my body. 34 lengths, it turns out, was 612m – 44% of my goal. Suddenly, completing that swim seemed achievable.
Swimming, you and I may become friends after all…