I really enjoy swimming, I love the feel of the warm water on my skin. I especially love it when I get to the pool and realise that I am the first person to enter it since maybe half an hour before because the water is so still, completely calm and ripple free. It’s hard to explain if you haven’t encountered it before but it’s almost like it’s a brand new swimming pool, the sparkling, shimmering water looks so inviting. It is such a wonderful feeling, I embrace this perfection and glide gently and gracefully through the water to try and keep it as still as I can, for as long as possible.
Swimming is a good all-rounder. It destresses you, allows time for reflection and meditation, tones all your muscles and stretches the parts of you that need stretching. It is a brilliant cardiovascular exercise as it increases your heart rate and, as it supports your body weight, it is great for most people, even those with disabilities or injuries. You have to work harder in the water because of the water resistance (it doesn’t really feel like it) so thirty minutes of swimming is equivalent to forty five minutes exercise on solid ground. A gentle swim burns off about 200 calories in half an hour so there goes that cake you had in the morning! It is exhilarating and revitalising.
I can swim about a mile quite easily in a pool, counting my lengths, but I’m not really sure if I swim ‘properly’ or not, as I’m sure my technique is all wrong. Part of the reason for this is the fact that I don’t like to put my head under the water. Daft maybe but I feel I won’t be able to breathe – this could stem from childhood when my sister, my cousins and I were in the sea at Seaford, East Sussex, and I got dragged under. I felt all the shingle, shells and pebbles enveloping me and trying to drag me out to sea with the tide. I had to fight against the current to get my head above water and it was a pretty traumatic experience. Of course it might just be that I don’t know how to breathe properly underwater. I watch people swimming online, on TV and sometimes at the pool and they make it look so easy. Front crawl – head down arms smoothly gliding through the water, head up, breathe, head down etc. Unfortunately for me it is head up, arm splash, arm splash, kick, repeat. I do manage to get from one end of the pool to the other but with the grace of a puppy in a paddling pool.
The stroke I usually favour is breast stroke, but again I know I do this incorrectly. For starters my head is always out of the water and it shouldn’t be, it actually hurts your neck to hold it up for so long when you are lengthening your spine, so again your head should be underwater. The other aspect of this I’m not confident with is whether your arms and legs should move at the same time, or is it hands together, arms forward then whoosh round at the same time as you do the froggy legged thing OR is it arm movement, leg movement, arm movement etc? I’m really not sure but hopefully no one watches me so I just do my own little thing. I manage to do it fairly quickly despite my inconsistent technique and sometimes have little races against other people in the pool, due to my competitive nature. They are completely unaware they are involved in my race of course and if I lose it doesn’t matter because nobody else knows!
If there is nobody else around – the pool and the poolside area need to be completely vacated – sometimes I pretend I’m a synchronised swimmer, elegantly twirling round and round in the water, toes pointed like a ballerina, arms lengthened and perfectly straight, head poised out the water again, obviously. I used to love doing this as a child, feeling sophisticated and graceful. I do hope the receptionists don’t watch me on the security footage of the pool – they would just think I was a mad woman. One of my local swimming pools is actually advertising for prople to try synchronised swimming. All you need to be able to do is tread water – which I can – and swim a length – which I can do too! The thing is, as far as I’m aware, synchronised swimmers all go under the water together don’t they? They put their lovely slim legs up in the air and gracefully point their toes, while making perfect shapes with the rest of their body. I love watching synchronised swimming events on the TV, I am in absolute awe of their grace. However, in reality I think I would be underwater with my thumb and forefinger punching my nose to ensure I didn’t drown, hardly the pinnacle of finesse. I would really relish giving it a go though, perhaps I’ll look a bit more into it…