glinda: roller derby girls on track with lens flare (roller derby)
[personal profile] glinda posting in [community profile] exercise_every_day
We had a wee resurgance of activity here over the last few months so I when I wrote this for my journal I thought maybe some people over here would be intrested in it too?

I’ve taken up swimming recently. It was something I loved as a child and a teenager, a fun thing to do with family or friends. One of the few sports activities that school PE lessons didn’t ruin for me. I was never particularly fast or brilliant at it but I really enjoyed it. Now that I’ve got back into it I apparently have lots of feelings about it.

There’s a theory about exercise for those of us who aren’t ‘sporty’ by nature, which goes along the lines of: find a form of exercise that doesn’t feel like exercise to you because its fun and stick with that. It amuses me that the great activity loves of my childhood – skating, swimming, and dancing – come firmly under that banner. I was fit because they were fun so I would do loads of them. Now that I’m an adult and trying to get fit, these are the activities I find myself drawn back to that have proved the most effective at keeping me fit. They’re fun so most of the time it doesn’t feel like exercise. (Though afterwards I know as I stretch out my aching muscles that I had a good workout and also that I’m not 15 anymore!)

There was a chunk of approximately ten years, during which I didn’t swim. At all. (Well, with one exception, off the beach at Bournemouth and that was more treading water/floating with friends.) Not for fun, not for exercise. The whole process was probably largely exacerbated by the closest swimming pool to me when I was at university, being on the campus. It was right there, and I was a member of the attached gym I could go for free, I couldn’t justify paying to go anywhere else. But said pool was also a massive Olympic standard pool. Our Commonwealth swim team trained there. It was a serious pool for serious swimmers and daunting as all else for anyone who has never done any serious swimming. Between the competition swimmers, swimming lessons and other bookings, it was also quite difficult to negotiate the timetable to find out when you were allowed to swim. I went once, did two laps was nearly knocked over by faster swimmers twice and utterly knackered got back out of the pool and didn’t get in another one for over ten years.

For all of last summer I lived all of ten minutes away from an excellent swimming pool. It has a very popular leisure pool and a good-sized competition pool. Once again I joined the gym, I mostly worked backshift giving me the quiet weekday mornings that are usually the best/quietest time to swim free, there was nothing to stop me swimming regularly. I didn’t go once.

I’ve been saying that I would go swimming since I got back here. I live a little further away but still only a 20-minute walk. There’s always an excuse. Lack of time, not having goggles, feeling under the weather, being baffled by the swim timetables, a bout of athletes’ foot - that one was actually a decent reason – the current hairiness of my legs. (Actually this is a good point to detour briefly into body image. As a general rule I only shave my legs in Summer, like many women my age of my acquaintance, I don’t bother due to the fact that no-one who’ll care will see them and frankly in Scottish winters you’re damn grateful for an extra layer of insulation. Less a political statement; rather a lack of willingness to make the effort for no reason. This has kind of widened out to a general resentment of the effort of shaving them if no one was going to see them. Which is fine. But apparently going swimming with hairy legs is an area where I have a complete mental block. Given that I generally didn’t give a toss about doing PE with hairy legs when I was an actual teenager – wearing a sundress on a sunny day? Heck yeah shaving the legs is totally worth it. Standing around in a chilly sports hall playing basketball half-heartedly and getting unattractively red in the face, not worth it. I had to give myself a stern talking to before going swimming the other day when I was getting changed at the pool and spotted a couple of odd stray long hairs on my thighs and freaked out a little. I’d put more effort into getting over this if I didn’t know that professional swimmers of all genders often shave their whole body to make themselves more streamlined.) But then, one day last month I stood in the shower as it made a sad clicking noise and refused to work. The shower was dead, it would be three days until the plumber could get out to fix it and a combination of my short hair and the smallness of the bathroom sink meant while I could still get washed, my hair was going to get really greasy. But! I remembered that the gym has showers. I live a twenty-minute walk away. If I go for a pre-work session I can completely justify using their showers. But frankly the thought of getting on the treadmill or the bike at 7am fills me with utter horror. And then I remembered, I could go swimming. It would be quiet and by happy co-incidence Summer had given a last hurrah the weekend before and I’d shaved my legs so I could runabout in a sundress and make the most of it. I’ve long wanted to be the sort of organised person who goes swimming before work. Here was my chance. I set my alarm for early and threw my stuff in my rucksack. I headed out with a banana (long ago imprecations about not swimming on a full stomach warring with my inability to do much of anything before breakfast) and my expectations set low. After a ten-year hiatus, just getting in the pool would be a victory. I set myself the staggeringly low target of ‘more than two’ laps. That was it, even if I hated it, or was totally knackered afterwards; I would be doing better than me ten years ago.

It was beautiful morning, fresh and bright, perfect for an early morning walk. I explained to the girl at the desk that I’d never used this pool before and she explained which lanes I could use and the lane system (slow, medium, fast, please swim anti clockwise). It wasn’t until I was putting my bag in the locker that it dawned on me that I didn’t have goggles, or for that matter until I was in the water that I was still wearing my glasses. I got in the water and swam two lengths (one circuit really, I suppose); I paused to catch my breath. I felt ok, I swam another two lengths. I paused to catch my breath. I swam another two lengths. I paused to pass the time of day with an elderly fellow swimmer. I swam another two lengths. It was nearly time to go but another two would take me to ten lengths so I swam on. I was out of breath, thirsty, my arms hurt and when I got of the pool I felt like I was walking like an astronaut, but I was elated. All day at work I rode the high. I’d had fun, I felt good – I was hooked.

I love the pool in the early morning. The gentle lap of the water, the steady sound and quiet camaraderie of your fellow regular swimmers, the distant roar of the spin class above us expending far too much energy for that time in the morning. I’m not a morning person and every time getting out of my bed to go is difficult but absolutely worth it. I go once a week, normally a Tuesday, and hope to build it up to twice a week soon. Every time I get in the pool is a victory. I’m up to 16 lengths now, two of them backstroke – which despite being my favourite as a teenager, I find much harder now – and I now have goggles and a dedicated swim bag pre-packed with the essentials to swallow my excuses. I don’t swim fast, I mostly do a slow steady breaststroke, but each time I get in the water, I see improvements, whether in shorter pauses to catch my breath between laps or in slightly faster lengths. Each week I set myself a slightly higher target and each week I manage it. Maybe soon, I’ll be able to move into the medium speed lane – its something to aim for anyway.
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Exercise Every Day

September 2017

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