Monday, 13 May 2019

LEARNING TO LIKE SWIMMING

It took me three years to visit the Victorian swimming pool that was one minute walk from my flat. I never thought of myself as a swimmer, so I didn't think swimming was for me. I didn't do it competitively at school, and since the lessons we were forced to take, the only swimming I did was splashing about in the sea on holiday. I thought people who went to swimming pools were scary-serious-speed swimmers, and there wasn't really a place for someone like me.

Photograph - Soo Burnell (from her amazing Poolside series of Edinburgh swimming pools)
But the pool called to me. It was January and I was feeling sluggish, I wanted to do something. And it turns out, I hate running with an intensity greater than my fear of trying something new. So I bought myself an actual swimsuit (thank you bravissimo for making nice things built for my body shape), and headed to the pool.

The moment I stepped in the water, I froze. What if I literally couldn't swim a length? I could swim in the ocean, but that's more fun-bobbing-about, rather than trying to cross a pool and back. I figured it was do or drown, and I managed to frogkick myself along. It is a bit like riding a bike, I knew my technique wasn't great (and oh my god, my body hurt the next day), but I could do it! Yeah, there was some scary swimmers there, but they just ignored me. Everyone ignored each other. Exactly my type of activity.

Fast-forward five months later (!), and it turns out I really, really like swimming. I've been going roughly twice a week since the start of the year, and I can't imagine life without it. I didn't start swimming with a goal to lose weight (I think there's better sports if that is your focus), but I just wanted to feel better. And I do. I feel less sluggish. I'm sleeping better. And I can really feel the difference when I'm swimming. I'm still terrified of the fast lane, but I'm faster! And while I could probably do with a swimming lesson or two, it feels like my body finally is starting to understand what it's doing.

More importantly, is the mental calm it has brought me. When I looked back on 2018, one of my big stand-outs was realising how I'd carried a snug layer of stress with me for most of the year. This time round I wanted to be kinder to my mind, and swimming has been a marvel. When I swim I don't think about anything. Not work, not life, not even swimming. I can do lengths without realising it. I just don't think, I just do. I've not had anything in my life like it before, it is so calming, and has already been a wonderful cure-all to stressy days.

I'm about to hit the busiest point in my year (Film Festival is just around the corner, and our launch is only two weeks away - oh gaaaad), so here's the real test for me and swimming. Will I still go when I'm tired? Will it keep me sane when I am dreaming about pop ups (and other nonsense work-stress dreams)? We shall see. Wish me luck!

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