Where’s the thanks? 

Swimming pools are communial areas and I’ve overheard all sorts of weird and wonderful conversations…sometimes, I hear, and see, things that really annoy me. 

I’m going to take a moment to apologise here, to some I may seem old fashioned or a bit of a prude. 

In a communial, local authority run pool, there will be people from all walks of life, young and old. One of my local pools, has two water flumes. The children love them. So do the the adults. 

To reach the top, of the slide, means walking up a long winding stairway. Stairs are not my strong point and I don’t mind letting children past me, often though, they barge past with little thought, or consideration. Even, when I allow them past, or offer to allow them to go before me, on the flume, rarely do I get a word of thanks. 

Then there is the language. Yes most of us, in our childhoods, went through a phase, when out of earshot of our parents, thought we were big or hard, to swear, particularly the “really naughty ones”. However, I regularly hear young children, swearing vehemently and loudly, leading to me (and others) shoutung at them to “mind their language”. 

Maybe I’m old fashioned, a “fuddy duddy”, but surely there’s nothung wrong, to expect little courtesy and manners, from other users. 

#Challengeaccepted 

It’s been nearly three months, since my last post. Obviously, I have been very neglectful, of my blog, that’s not because I haven’t been swimming, far from it. I have been swimming lots…

There is little point in me doing, as originally planned a post about every single swim, for Arthritis Care,  but I will summarise the past three months.

It’s been amazing!!!

On the 8th April, I partook in Marie Curie swimathon. My swim, though, didn’t go quite as I’d planned. On the day in question I woke with the start of, what wato transpire to be, a heavy cold which then developed in a chest infection and resulted in a severe exacerbation of my asthma, This swim, was to be my last swim, for three weeks. Despite this, I still swam it, in 1 hour 24 minutes and three seconds, smashing my previous PB for 2,5km and swimming nearly six minutes, under the time my coach, told me to aim for. My previous PB was 1 hour 50 minutes and 28 seconds.

I have my tee-shirt and my medal, the medal I display with pride and the T-shirt I wear with pride. Unfortunately, it’s white and the first wearing, I dropped curry down it, no amount of soaking and washing, have shifted the stain!

Going back, to the swim itself. I swam it at “Chester le Street Pool” near Durham, the dated interior and freezing waters, where more than made up for, by the amazing staff. They shouted, cheered and hollered me, to the finish line. 

I was the only one, taking part, but that didn’t stop them making an effort. My final lengths were swam with, “Calvin Harris, This is what you came for”, blasting out. it was particularly meaningful, as the pool who I had previously booked it, to swim it at, cancelled at the last minute “as not enough people “had signed up”.
Then, it was on to the next challenge.,,

This was planned, to start on the 13th April and was my much anticipated and planned “marathon challenge”.  I reluctantly, had to pistpone this challenge, due to my asthma. 

Finally, on the 4th May I started, only 5 days after my enforced 3 week break, on account of my asthma. It goes without saying, it was incredibly tough. 

I had to make a lot of sacrifices and I hated, how it led to me feeling that I was putting swimming, before my friends. I had to be so focused and disciplined.

Arthritis Care Week was the 8th-14th May 2017, my plan was to swim at least 10km, during that week. This equates to an Olympic Swim Marathon-in the end I swam 13.1km during AC week. 

The other aspect, of this challenge, was to swim the  equivalent distance of the London Marathon, from the 4th May-4th June. Two and half weeks, into my challenge, I came into contact with two people, with colds. I knew a cold, would destroy any chance I might have of completing my challenge, so I made the decision to complete it as quick, as I could.

I pushed myself hard, to hard, swimming 15km in just 5 days. I also finished on Tuesday 30th May-5 days early. It was a brilliant evening , several members of the branch, sat at the side of the pool encouraging and supporting me to the end. Then the celebrations began, wine and procesco was drunk and congratulations given.

I totally crashed, after this. I slept much of the following  and mt arthritis went into a massive flair up, but it was so worth it. The sense of achievement, is amazing. 

My coach often states that we often don’t do things, because our mind tells us, we can’t, but often we are capable of doing far more than we believe we can. This was certainly true, of this challenge. Despite severe asthma, for which I’m on 10 different medications, polyarthalgia/osteoarthritis, gluteal neuropathy and significant muscle damage to my back, I swam over 26 miles (42200m) in three weeks and two days. I couldn’t, however of done it without the support of my friends and members of Arthritis Care.

During this challenge I threw in lots of micro challenges, I improved my front crawl distance, from 200m to 1500m and I am regularly doing half a mile, freestyle sets, now. My next plan, is to add tumble turns, into this.

My one mile PB is now 47 mins and a few seconds and my 2km PB sits at just over a hour, by a few seconds. Fourteen months ago, my one mile PB was one hour and 8 mins, so this represents, huge progress.

I also completed my longest distance swam, in one session, 4km. This wasn’t swam, without stopping, but only took 2 hours 50 mins to complete. My next aim, is 5km. 

 Then, finally, in the middle of May, I took part in the “mile in an hour challenge” for the Alzheimer’s Society. I swam this, un memory of my amazing grandma, who suffered (and I mean really suffered) from Alzheimers Disease, prior to her passing in 2003. 

I was, initially, a little disappointed with my time of 50mins and 35 seconds. My total swim distance, in the hour was 1900m, I’d aimed for 2000m, however it was a tough swim. The pool lacked “anti-wave ropes’, with at least 12 people in the pool, it was, at best, choppy, making swimming harder work. It also meant, that when freestyle  (frontcrawl) breathing, I was often hit, with a faceful of water.

It also didn’t help, that midway through, someone swam into me, head first, resulting insome minor bruising, it was more of a shock and took a while to get back into the pattern of swimming. 

So that is currently, where I am up to. Hopefully, my next post will appear, a lot quicker than it took me to post this.

Snakes and ladders

For the past three weeks, I have been forced out of the pool, by a viral chest infection and subsequent exacerbation of my asthma.

My asthma, has slowly improved as my lungs have recovered from the infection, that had taken up residence there, but my airways remain a little grumpy and irritable, like they haven’t quite, fully forgiven the bugs that invaded them, uninvited.

On Thursday, I was considering heading back to the pool, but I woke up at 6am on Friday, coughing, they then threw a bit of a tantrum, in the evening, when visited a friend, whose neighbour has a “wood burner”. In reality, it’s a “whatever crap you’ve got burner”, I don’t know what he was burning last night, but it certainly didn’t smell like burning wood and my lungs didn’t seem to think it was either.

Sitting at my neighbours dining room table, puffing away on my nebuliser, I sent a text to my coach, that I wouldn’t be attending training tomorrow morning. He replied that he understood, but encouraged me, that if I felt up to it, to attend training anyway and he would set up a “re-habilitation and recovery training set for me”.

I awoke this morning, at 6am, the first thing I noted was that I was experiencing a significant amount of pain, resulting from the arthritis in my spine. Neither paracetamol nor codeine fully alleviated the pain. My lungs were also grumpy. I had two, perfectly valid excuses not to swim.

That however, was precisely what they were, excuses. It’s too easy to resort to excuses, when you like the idea of doing something, but in reality, don’t really want to do it. Most things, can be overcome, with a little determination and adaptability. My spinal pain could be managed, even if couldn’t be eradicated and I knew from my peak flow, that though my lungs were grumpy, my reading was reasonable and at a safe level, to swim. I would just need a larger dose of Ventolin, before getting in the pool, as to support them. I knew they weren’t well enough, to cope with an all out, hard training session, but that wasn’t the aim of todays swim.

So, I headed over to the pool, I was greeted by my coach, who informed me that I was going to be doing a straight set. Twenty, individual lengths. That was it. I felt like I was playing a huge game of snakes and ladders. Over the six weeks, leading up to the infection, I had made great progress, rolled lots of “sixes” and climbed a few ladders, but had now slid down a massive snake and landed very low down the board!

I climbed in the pool, spoke to my lane buddy, and put my goggles on, ready to set off only to be met with a resounding, ping followed by my goggles falling off my face. Confused, at first, as to what had happened I inspected them and realised that, despite only being a few months old, they had broke. Like most swimmers, I suspect, I don’t carry a tube of superglue in my kit bag, so like a scene, from the Australian drama, Barracuda, I fashioned an emergency repair and got on with it.

The swim proved hard, I’ve lost strength from my arms and overall fitness, in addition, my lungs are still, not fully recovered. Consequently, it was an exhausting effort, even swimming two lengths, with a 10 second gap, in between each length. It’s incredibly frustrating and I know I have to commit to a lot of hard work, in the coming weeks, to get myself back to where I was.

There were a few times, when it was all I could do, to stand at the end of the lane, gasping for breath, resulting in the life-guard wandering over to enquire if I was alright. I tried to reassure him, that I was fine and that I knew what I was doing, I don’t think I was very successful though.

After 20 lengths, I’d had enough, I was tired and I felt sick. I wanted to get out. However, there was 10 minutes of the session to go, not wanting to give up, even at this early stage, I decided to try and do a couple more lengths. I am nothing, if not determined! I reflected back, to the two swims I had, had directly prior to becoming unwell and recalled, how on both, I was able to do more than I had thought possible (I will blog about this soon!). I wanted to do the same, again.

I managed another couple of lengths, my coach enquired how I was feeling. I explained that I had completed my 20, but wanted to try for a couple more. “Ok” he replied “no more than 30”. Thirty, quickly became a figure in my head, to aim for.

Twenty soon became twenty-two, then twenty-four, twenty-six and then twenty-eight. Two to go, my chest was tight, my arms ached, I found it hard to believe, that what for me, would of been an easy swim, three weeks ago, could be so tiring and challenging now. I was absolutely determined in my focus, I would reach thirty. Head down, looking at the bottom of the pool, streamlined position, kicking from the hip, knees straight, with arms reaching forward, each arm pull, bringing me closer to my goal. Twenty-nine and then onto my final length. Half way, through the length, I started to struggle, but knowing that this is where I have been before, several times, I kept going and reached the end of the lane.

I was disappointed, yet happy with my swim, but I am back in the pool. It will take hard work, determination and focus, to get back to where I was, only a few short weeks ago. I feel really quite uncomfortable, swimming, but I know that is down to the loss of physical fitness, its a brick wall I have to get through. I can either give up, or keep going. Giving up, has never been an option for me. I will keep going, I have a training plan, from my coach, which if I stick to, should see me, hopefully return to my previous level of fitness, within a few weeks.

I need to, as Dory, in Finding Nemo, once said “just keep swimming, just keep swimming”….

A little update, from me!

It’s been a couple of weeks since, I last updated my blog and I do have a post, in the pipeline. 

However, at the minute, I’m been kept out of the pool, by some sort of viral infection and my lungs, being the narcissistic bitches they are, have opted to pitch in. 

At the minute, I am resident to a sore throat which had reduced my voice to a hoarse whisper. Luckily, so far, other than affecting my asthma, it hasn’t developed beyond this.

It’s frustrating, but unfortunately, my lungs are sensitive to chlorine, getting in the pool right now, would be idiotic. Usually I can overcome, this easily, by using my “blue inhaler” before I swim, but as I’ve learnt, to my cost, pre-existing angry lungs, will only get angrier when faced with a pool full of chlorinated water!

I don’t have reason to complain though, my asthma has been pretty good for the past four and half months. That, for me; in a winter, is brilliant. 

So, for me, it’s now a case of “riding it out” increasing my chest physio, in the hope it doesn’t develop into a bacterial chest infection and hope that I can get back in the pool, by the end of next week.

Swimming and fitness

Today, this Swimming article, appeared as a “pop up” on my web browser. I am not really a reader, of “The Guardian”, nut it makes interesting reading and provides useful advice on correct technique.

I particularly found the information, on front crawl. interesting. I recently swam front crawl, the way I did, before I learnt to swim. Head up and essentially, splashing down the pool. It was exhausting!

 

Mind over matter

Often, when I swim, I have song lyrics floating around my head. Songs which include Titanium, by Rihanna, Proud, Heather Small or Search for the Hero inside yourself, by M People. These songs help serve to spur me on, provide encouragement and help me focus. Other times, though completely inane songs, go through my head, such a Nellie the Elephant, they serve little purpose, other than to provide slight amusement and distraction!

My latest song is “Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes”, the purpose of this is purely to remind me to focus, on in turn, my breathing, my arm pull and finally my kick and so on and so forth. I haven’t actually got, as far as actually trying to carry out the actions, that go with this particular song, while swimming.

Five weeks ago, when I first joined the swim squad, I realised that that the key focus, appears to be on front crawl. Not only is it, the seemingly “go to stroke”, but it is also quicker than breaststroke, thus more training is accomplished, in a swim.

However, for me, front crawl is the stroke I struggle with most, I find it hard work, getting the breathing technique right. Therefore, I haven’t really worked on my front crawl stroke development, outside of lessons, preferring to focus on breaststroke.

I explained the difficulties I was experiencing to my coach. He quickly identified, that I am coming in too short, with my arms, that was quickly remedied. My breathing is something that will take, both time and practice to get right, but I am learning to relax and keep my breathing slow and steady, I have tendency to over breathe when I am struggling and this only serves to make it worse.

The main issue, that has been identified, is with my kick. I don’t kick, efficiently, I kick back, but not forward and I allow my hips to sink, thus I am fighting against the water. I also kick for the knee, meaning that I am not using the biggest and strongest muscles available to me.

Myself and my coach, have worked intensively on this, even in three weeks we can both see a huge improvement, in my kick. Lots of time is spent, up and down the pool, going back to basics, kickboard in hands, desperately kicking away, like you did, back in your primary school days.

The other part, of this exercise, is what is known as “vertical kick”, if you want to look cool in the pool, this is not how to do it. It consists, of heading off to the deep end, clutching a small float while kicking and trying to keep yourself both vertical afloat. Think a aquatic meerkat. An aquatic meerkat,  who is pulling the most ridiculous faces, in an attempt to stay afloat!

Las Saturday, my coach started me off with my warm up. Two front kick, two side kick, two back kick and two swim times two. The Noah’s Ark of swimming, I guess, everything in in twos! Then came the main set…ten sets of 100m, front crawl, 30 seconds vertical kick, followed by 30 seconds rest. Inside I cringed and my heart sank, there was no way I could do that!

I set off, concentrating on my legs, ensuring I was kicking correctly as I pushed off from the wall. The first 75 metres was alright, but the next 25 was tough going. Thirty seconds kick, a quick rest then off again. Again, on my fourth length, my chest tightened and I found it hard going. My asthma, has been difficult during the past week and had only really started to settle the previous day.

My coach shouted, as I madly kicked, “is that your third set?”, “no its my second” I responded. “remember to keep your feet up” was the reply “you’re sinking on your final length”. I shot back “I’m finding it really hard”, then he said something that was like manna from heaven “well try and manage at least four sets”. Aye I could manage that, it was a much better option than 10.

On my third set, I decided to have a cheeky skive, my water bottle and inhaler was at the bottom end of the pool. I stopped at 75 metres. I stopped, took a breather, a couple of puffs of Ventolin and a slurp from my water bottle. My coach, shouted “I take these down to the other end, save you from having to stop, at this end”. I breathless, uttered my thanks and inwardly muttered “bugger”!

On to my fourth set, now I was warming up a bit, it was getting easier, still at least it was my last set. As I completed my vertical kick, my coach enquired “how many”. Inwardly smiling, I responded “four” “right, take a minutes rest this time and then keep going”. My fifth and sixth set, was tough, but I was over half way through, despite my coach saying we would stop at four, it seemed like he had forgotten and we were going for 10.

At the end of my sixth set, I was relieved to be half way through. Then my coach, added a goalie into the mix, “do one more set, then the sets after that I want you to use tumble turns”. I’m comfy with tumble turns, but they make more demands on my beleaguered lungs and make getting my kick, right, harder.

At the end of set eight, it was approaching ten to 9, nearly the end of my coaching session. My coach noticed me staring at the clock and advised me I could get two more sets in. I knew I could and was determined, as hard as I was finding it, to achieve this.

My ninth set was brilliant, the best set so far, with everything coming together, on my tenth set, I gave it all I’d got. I dug deep and kept going. Despite, being convinced that I’d never manage 10 sets I had and I was elated. My kick, still is a work in progress, but I had accomplished, far more than I thought I was capable of.

This, got me thinking, so much of sport or any form of exercise, has a psychological element to it. Often, I find I am capable of far more, than what think I am and I guess that’s same for most of us. In addition, I can allow my fears and confidence to hold me back. This is particularly pertinent when I add my chronic health problems into the mix.

We are all, probably capable of far more, than we think we are!