Training off to a great start

My training started in ernest tonight and I’m really happy with how it went.

The pool was much quieter, than is has been of late, I’m suspecting the colder weather and threat of snow has put a few people off. Possibly some of the “New Years Resolution Gang” can’t face the idea of going outside , after swimming, in to the icy wind. Cold weather, in all likelihood, sorts some of the wheat from chaff, when it comes to making a long term swimming commitment. I’m making a assumptions here, of course!

Anyhow, I started with a 50m warm up. I was amused to reach the end of the lane, after my first 25, to witness a couple, who had got in just after me, having a massive argument. She was resorting, to splashing him with large amounts of water, as a means of marking her ire with him. Saves throwing plates, I guess. Maybe its a damage limiting exercise,  go to your local pool for an argument, instead of throwing crockery in frustration and smashing the furniture, throw some water instead! 

I was quite suprised, on the return journey, swimming front crawl, that my lungs felt uncomfortable. Clearly there was some inflammation/muscle tightness in my lungs as a result of my asthma. 

I decided to swim, mainly breaststroke in the early stages of my swim. This is a difficult call, I usually alternative breaststroke and frnot crawl, with distances of equal length.  Breast stroke is much easier on my lungs, bit puts much more pressure on my joints. Fortunately, as time went on and I became more “warmed up” my lungs improved and front crawl became easier

The other thing, I was working on today, along with completing a long swim, was prevent or at least reducing the painful cramp I experience in my feet and ankles. I’ve read a number of articles,which suggest dehydration is a culprit in causing this. 

Usually,  when I swim a distance, I don’t like to stop, but this means I can be swimming up to two hours, with out fluids. If the gym, you know how much fluid your loosing, in the pool you have no idea. Therefore, I built regular, fluid breaks into my swim. This also allowed me to have two puffs my salbutamol inhaler, each time I stopped.

Every 15 or minutes, I would stop, have a few sips of water, 200mcg of salbutamol and off I’d go again. Intrestingly, cramp was much less of a problem, today. It also proved to be a good way, of breaking down a long swim. Next time, I will try half an hour and see how I feel, before deciding when to fit in my fluid breaks. 

The pool, did get busier as time went along, from 7pm-8pm, it was ladies only. There was only myself and one of two other’s seemed too be undertaking serious swimming. It clearly highlights to me, just how many adult’s,  seem never to have, had the opportunity. I also noticed, that quite a large majority where excercising mainly, their mouth. It’s good, that the pool provides a social space, bit how many will return home, thinking that they have completed a decent amount of swimming, when in reality have achieved little in the way of aerobic exercise, one of the greatest benefits swimming can, if done properly provide. 

As I swam, I became aware of the fact I was experiencing a significant amount of.pain in my right wrist and shoulder. Clearly my arthritis was accompanying me, in the pool! Fortunately, it didn’t get to the “unbearable point” and I was able to carry on. 

On Monday, I had been forced to abandon my swim, thanks to, two ladies swimming side by side, chatting. This time, I decided I needed to be brutal. If someone was in my way, rather than getting frustrated and give up, I knew I had to find a way of keeping going.

Most of the time I was able to swim round them, even it meant swimming a slightly greater distance,  but a couple of times I was forced to swim through them. 

On one particular occasion,  half way up the lane, four ladies were swimming a slow breaststroke, side by side, chatting. A shoal of women! Not wanting to sound like an exert from “We’re going on a Bear Hunt”, but I knew that I could get round them, nor could I swim under them. I couldn’t stay behind them, as their pace was far too slow. I just had to go through them, and I did. Head down, arms outstretched, I put myself into the gliding position, literally barged my way through the middle. It wasn’t the most decorious way, to deal with it or, if the truth be told, polite. But it was, the only way to continue. Coming back in the opposite direction, I saw them again, in their little pack, coming towards me, so did they and they scattered, swimming off, in different directions, before again reforming their ranks, re-comencing their conversation!

I would like to take the opportunity here, to apologise. I probably come across as opinionated and bitchy. I don’t intend to, it’s just sometimes, it gets frustrating. 

It’s impossible to run sessions for social swimmers and serious swimmers, it just wouldn’t be practical, but sometimes I wish I could, get in the pool and “just swim” without having to be considering how to circumnavigate round other people.

I also had a couple of folk crash into me, easy done and their apologies are accepted. If you’re swimming with your head up, you can see me in advance. For most of my swims, I’m looking, mainly at the pool floor, I don’t have a periscope on my goggles, unfortunately. Nor am I able, to take my eye out, lift it up and look round, like Mr Potato Head in Toy Story! 

Despite all of this, I had a great, first training swim. Along with the 50m at the he beginning, I swam a further 2300m in one hour and thirty minutes. My previous best for 2500m was one hour 51 minutes, so this shows to me, a marked improvement in speed. 

The last 500 metres, was exhausting. I felt like I had nothing left, in the tank, despite raiding my work’s Christmas sweetie tin, earlier in the afternoon! It felt like, every single stroke, was a hard work and I knew I was depleting already depleted resources, but I had decided to swim till 7.50pm and I was determined to do this. And I did. 

I climbed, gratefully out of the pool, really happy with my swim, but desperate for a rest. I ached and my left hand was tingling, telling me that I had irritated the nerve damage, in my upper spine. 

To help me recover a little, I parked myself up in the steam room. It was great, not to have to share it it big, burly blokes, dressed only in their speedo budgie smugglers. Where else would it be perfectly normal and acceptable, to sit in a room with a group of blokes, clad only in, in essence, their pants? It was nice too, to be able to relax, without being surrounded by blokes vying for supremacy, with each other, in someway. 

Five minutes later, I emerged from this steam fIlled enclosure, feeling revived. I spotted a thing of beauty. A empty pool, it’s surface, like a millpond. It was opportunity too good to miss. With four minutes to closing time, I got back in. 

I still felt, utterly exhausted, but to be able to swim in an empty pool was too good an opportunity. It had to be taken. 

I swam a further three lengths, 50m butterfly, reaching the end of the pool the lifeguard shouted “we’re closed love, time to get out”. Please, one more back to the bottom?  I set off, to find all eyes on me, as I flayed my way to the end. 

Yes the pool was closed to the public, but the local swimming club had just arrived for training and these were the elite swimmers. Goodness what they all thought, as they saw me splashing my way down the pool. I might judge other other people’s swimming style. 

Anyway I will end with a summary of the main swim, today. 

, they must have had similar thoughts about me!

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Next big challenge…

Over the last few months, I’ve filled this blog, with generally waffle posts. 

This year I am going to undertake Marie Curie Swimathon, the 30th one, and a swimming challenge to raise funds for Arthritis Care, Gateshead Branch. 

My aim is, and I think I’ve mentioned this previously, is to swim “a marathon in a month, with a marathon in a week”.

I know this sounds  a little confusing, but I will explain. 

A marathon,  when ran, is 26.195 miles or just under, 42200m. A swimming marathon, is 10km. So my plan is to swim 42200m in a month (1688 lengths of a 25 pool), with at least 10km (400 lengths) being swam in the final week. Arthritis Care week. 

Obviously, I can’t just dive in there and swim it. It will take 2-3 months before hand of training, building up my distances and further increasing my fitness.

Training, of any kind, is a bit tougher right now, because the pools are busier and some people seem unfamiliar with the “rules of the pool”. 

Last Saturday, I was swimming on the pools “training lanes” only to have someone swim into me, head first, as they were swmiming on the wrong side of the lane.

On Monday, I was forced to abandon my plan to swim 2km, after I was joined by two social swimmers, who swam a slow “breast stroke” side by side, while chatting, making it impossible to swim at any pace but theirs. Overtaking resulted in being kicked, as the had a wide legged, scissor kick, in opposed to a frog type kick, resulting in flailing legs!

The life guards are supposed to intervene in situations like this, but failed to and speaking to their manager didn’t help either. 

Anyway, my focus over the next fews will be on my training and preparation for this challenge and this blog, I hope, will help chart some of this.

First swim of 2017

Today, here in the UK, it’s a “bank holiday”… it’s a kind of hangover, as it were, from New Year. New Years Day fell on a Sunday, therefore today is a bank holiday. Which means most of the pools are shut and there’s no post (though Veron Dursley, from Harry Potter might be happy with that).

However, South Tyneside Leisure, opened two of their pools till three, so I enjoyed are leisurely lie in, till half past 11 (hardly necessary, as I barely moved yesterday!). I scoffed two weetabix (supermarket brand), had a yoghurt and set off to the pool.

It was are little busy, as to be expected, with a mixture of children, people trying to keep their New Years resolutions, leisure swimmer and people, like me, who just want to get in there and swim. 

One lane was taken, by three leisure swimmers, one of whom I couldn’t help sniggering at, as she lectured her friend how to swim properly. Before then setting off, head up, thrashing down the pool. I then remembered, I used to swim like that and I thought I could swim! We are often ignorant till correctly taught!

I bagged the spare lane, with the intention of swimming 2.5km.I was later joined, in the same lane, by another swimmer. A far better swimmer than I, that was until he stopped, to have a gossip with the woman, in the next lane. Consequently, I accidently put to boot in, when I did a tumble turn. It was totally unintented, but I am pretty sure he’ll be sporting a bruise or two, tomorrow!

My swim was initially, frustrating, I can not get my new goggles, right. They are either so tight, it feels like they are sucking my eye balls out of their sockets, or I loosen then, a little, then they leak and I find myself squinting against the chlorinated water, sloshing about in them! Things got even more uncomfortable,  when I tumble turn, as the force of the water, slid my goggles up my face!

Eventually my goggles were sorted and I was off. The battery level in my watch was concerning, sitting at only 10%. Thankfully, it lasted the course and hopefully, unless all of Garmins UK staff, have taken an extended break and don’t return to work, till after the festivities are over, the new charger should arrive tomorrow! 

It was a tough swim, throughout my swim I experienced pain in my back, hands, shoulder and elbow and right knee. It’s hard to keep going, when you’re hurting. Everything within me was saying “stop, stop!”

I know though, I can manage the pain. I can’t and won’t allow it to stop me. Pain is part of having arthritis and though unpleasent, not a reason to stop. The less I use these joints, the worse my flexibility and mobility becomes. The challenge is, knowing when you really need to stop! It’s difficult too, to focus on my swim and the enjoyment of it, when pain is clouding the experience. 

There’s a real sense of exhilaration, achievement and accomplishment though, as I push myself onwards. I relish the significantly increased fitness levels, that swimming regularly, has given to me. 

Keeping going, isn’t so much physical as psychological. It’s about having and keeping the right mental attitude. It’s easy (and to a point, dangerous) to focus on the pain, or rather how much pain you’re in. Focusing on the pain, makes it easier to give in and harder to continue, it’s saps your energy and turns your focus to a less positive one. Yes we all have, and are entitled, to have our bad days, days were it’s too much to deal with, where we struggle. It’s when this becomes our key focus, where negative thoughts processes dominate and we become largely fixated on the struggles we face, this is when I feel it becomes difficult to even consider ways of finding ways to overcome, manage and deal with the challenges and curveballs that life with a long term condition throws at you.

But, my swim was also good. I posted a good time for my 200IM, just outside my PB (which is a rubbish time, when compared to Olympians). 

In April I am undertaking, like last year, Swimathon. This year for Marie Curie, in opposed to Sport relief. Last year, I didn’t care how I completed it, I just wanted to get through it. Last year I swam 1.5km, this year, it’s the more challenging 2.5km and I want to smash my PB of 1hr 50. This year I have a “game plan”. 

Swimming 2.5km is a decent distance and consequently, more psychologically challenging. One hundred lengths seems like a long distance, at the start, so I work in sets of 100m. Twenty-five sets, seems far more palitable. This year I hope to swim 100m breast stroke and 100m freestyle, alternating. 

My freestyle endurance is still pretty limited, so starting at 1000m, I will increase the distance by 200m each week. I also really need to work on my breast stroke kick, which is, to put it simply,  rubbish. This isn’t helped, by my arthritis and more especially, the nerve and muscle damage in my left hip. I also need to work, on improving my overall stamina and fitness levels, though they are pretty good now and this shows in my general endurance, there’s still, improvements that can be made! 

I successfully swam 1200m, in this manner, the last 100m of freestyle was particularly challenging, as my asthma caused me to become breathless. On completion, it was just before 2.50pm. I clarified, that the closing time was 3pm, the lifeguard replied, “yes”, before adding “so you’ve got time for a few more lengths”. 

At previous pools I’ve swam at the closing time, isn’t the time they boot you out the pool, it’s the time they boot you out the building! I’ve known in the past, where I’ve acrally been swimming in the dark, because they’ve turned the lights out (long before their advertised closing time)! 

Stealing a glance at the clock, I decided to go for another 300m, I was at 2.2km and needed just those few more lengths to make it to, too 2.5km. I knew that staying in, would mean joining the mad dash and melee, for the showers, when I did get out. But hey ho, I was off again!

Alas, I didn’t make it to 2.5km…I completed 250m making it, 2,450m only to find a lifeguard peering at me, from the side of the pool “time to get out love”, “can I just do another 50m I pleaded”, my pleas fell on deaf ears. They were shut and it was time to leave! 

I spent the next two hours only focused on the fact that I hadn’t completed 2500m as I’d hoped to and disappointed by the missed 50m, before realising, I was focusing only on the negative. I had, had a good swim, achieved a lot and I needed to be happy with what I had done, the 2450m and had swam and not focused on the fact that I hadn’t been able to swim the last 50m, to take me to 2500m!

Reflections in the pool…

Reflecting back on 2016 and my swimming achievements, I can’t help, but feel a sense of pride.

Despite my ongoing heatlh problems and injury, resulting in me having to take a break, from swimming, on no less than 7 occasions, in addition to having my swimming bag stolen, I have been able to achieve so much. This, however is not just down to me, it’s also thanks to the wonderful staff at Swim NE and my swimming teachers/coaches. Thanks also need to be extended to the many people who have supported and encouraged me; friends, colleagues, family and even random strangers.

So, now reflecting back, here is list of what I feel have been my main achievements this year.

Passing ASA level 7, at the beginning of the year, and completing the competencies for level 10, at the end of the year.

Completing all my distance badges to 3000m and all my rainbow 100m distance awards (I bought these, myself).

Finally cracking butterfly, being able to swim 100m butterfly and being able swim a 400m IM.

Completing two “sport relief swimathons” 1.5km in 1h 8 seconds, just days after recovering from a chest infection and, a month later, just after recovering from a further chest infection, swimming 2.5km in 1h 50mins and 28 seconds. In doing so I raised over £200. I handed over, one of my medals and my swim hat, to my nana!

Featuring on a Arthritis Care DVD, showcasing people living arthritis, in a positive way. Arthritis Care, chose to focus on my swimming.

Swimming a 200m IM in less that 7m 30s and a mile in just 57 mins, hardly a recording breaking figure, but significant achievement all the same.

Featuring on an Arthritis Care promotional DVD, show casing people living with arthritis.

Cracking “tumble turns” they look easy, but believe me, they take months of practise to get right. It’s frustating progress.

This isn’t an achievement, as such, but still amusing. When I was in Lanzarote, a cocky bloke went round all the women and asked if they could swim, in an attempt to show them off, that he could and they couldn’t. Before he could get to me, I set off, butterfly first, then front crawl, with a few tumble turns. He sharp shut up and disappeared, which I was happy with as he was loud, obnoxious and drunk!

Having the opportunity to pass, some of what I’ve learnt, on to others. I was approached, at the pool by someone who asked me, how he could improve his front crawl. I’m definitely no expert nor am I swim teacher, but I really enjoyed having the opportunity to pass some knowledge on. 

Featuring in the “This Girl can” campaign, appearing both on their FB site and their website. 

Finally, volunteering for the “swim safe project”, I was frequently cold, wet and covered in sand. As a volunteer I was a Gopher and a jack of all trades, volunteers were expected to muck in were needed, but it was great fun. 

I had the pleasure of working with an amazing team, who between them, helped to improve over 700 children and young people improve their knowledge of water safety, which may in turn help save a life one day.

So what of 2017…next year, I will be focusing far less on gaining certificates and so forth and more focused on improving my times and completing a number of swimming challenges, to raise money for a variety of charities, information of which, I will post about in early January. 

Knowing when to pause and rest….

The really challenging thing I find, with arthritis is knowing when to stop and rest. With my asthma, its obvious, peak flow dropping like a stone along with all the usual asthma symtoms. 

With my arthritis, it much harder to judge. After 15 years of living with these aching, creaking, stiff joints, I’ve developed a high pain threashold and a great deal of resiliance. Arthritis isn’t static, there are days where my joints are much better than others, there are days I throw all caution to the wind and “go for it” irrespective of the consequences and there are days where I just want to crawl under my duvet and stay there!

I have always believed in taking responsibilty for my health, eating a reasonably healthy diet, taking regular excercise, keeping up a reasonable level of fitness, taking good care of my chronic conditions, watching my weight and finding my way round challenges and curve balls that head my way-not focusing on the negative, the things that might go wrong, but rather always trying to seek out ways round difficulties. 

Despite all this, though I appreciate that there are times where I need to rest. Arthritis renders me at greater risk of injury and if I go too far, I really feel it. A good example of this, was when I was in Lanzarote. I walked for miles, but on the Tuesday I was in so much pain, I could barely walk. Sometimes, it’s worth it, as it was in Lanzarote (that night though, after resting all day and taking codiene, I still managed to knock out the Macarena and join in with the Conga!).

Last Wednesday, my left hip and knee was particularly painful. I knew what the culprit was, butterfly! It was painful, to the point I complained about to my workmates. I choose to rarely complain about my pain, firstly if I did I’d always be moaning and secondly, it drags me down and also, those around me. 

I really wanted to try out for a mile, that night. I was really determined, but same time I didn’t want to make situation worse. I need to train, but I’ve still got nearly six months ahead of me. I knew if I pushed it too far, I could be out the pool for upto three to four weeks, which is risky as I could be the out, even longer if my asthma chooses to pitch in. 

In the end, I decided to go for a swim and judge by how I felt, as I swam, though is difficult as the pain is far less noticable, in the water. 

I arrived, this time at Jarrow Pool, I asked when the pool closed. I was informed, that there was an aquafit session at 6, but that pool closed at 8. It was 5.35pm.

In the changing rooms, I stuffed a bag of crisps in my face in anticipation of swimming a mile, which can burn 5-600 calories. The lifegaurd asked me, as I entred the pool, if I was there for the aquafit session. “No”, was my responce, “well you’ll have to get out at six” WHAT? He went on to explain the pool closes to the general public during Aquafit, I went on to explain, that it had been explained to me that the pool shut at 8pm. 

It quckly became apparent, that I’d been offered the wrong information. I’d have to get out, at six, I could if I wanted, grt back in at 7, but not wanting to spend an hour sat wet, bored snd cold I opted to exit the pool at 6, but I took it right to the wire, swimming, in total 400m, far short of the 1600m I’d planned and anticipated.

I am taking a few days off now, but I should be back in the pool on Sunday, if all goes as planned.

Looking for excuses…flying meat missile!

So, tonight it was on to my second training swim…

Last night, pretty much cemented my decision to leave my existing gym and pool and seek out an alternative. Namely it’s too small and crowded! 

Today, I made the decision to drive to Hebburn Pool, after work, to ask about monthly membership options and to also, have swim.

Hebburn Pool, is not my nearest pool. It’s actually, several miles away, but the pool is new, clean and modern and the staff, excellent. My local pool, is currently closed, due to someone who had D and V swimming in it and passing it on to others, not content with infecting one pool, they also infected a second. The public health bods, have not laid any blame, on the way the pools are run, managed and maintained, I say this because it has now has hit the local press and it’s out there, in he media.

Any how, moving on, as I referred to earlier, I decided to go to Hebburn Pool, after work. Then I thought, I really can’t be bothered…and started thinking up excuses!

Last night, I was putting my shopping away. I shoved a pork joint in the freezer and shut the door on it, only for it to slide down the freezer, hit the door, resulting in the door flying open and my pork joint hurtling towards me. This all happened in a split second, as did my reaction to it. 

I “threw myself backwards” as  to avoid contact with this flying meat missile, in doing my head made contact with the door frame, with a resounding thunk! I swore, quickly checked my head and ascertained that a trip to casualty was not required, it did not necessitate neither a bandage or stitches, just two paratacemol!

Consequently though, along with a bruise on my head, I’ve had a thumping headache all day. I’m pretty sure, that getting hit with a low flying pork joint, would of proved less painful!

Despite regular pain relief, it’s hung around all not, despite not being not being welcome. For this reason, I felt that, maybe it would be a good idea to have a “night off”.

It was the classic “angel and devil” scenario on the one side “no don’t swim, you’ve got a headache etc” and on the other “go for a swim, it will do you good,you need to swim”.  The Angel won!

On arrival at Hebburn pool, I was greeted by a lovely receptionist, I enquired about monthly membership, with South Tyneside Leisure. I was informed that it was £17.50 a month, on acount of being “registered disabled”. I signed up, immediately…it’s a saving of  £7.50 on the gym and more to the point, the pools are much better. 

Having sorted that out and signed on the dotted line, it was time for a swim. 

It was a good swim, but I realise how much fitness I’ve lost since August. I’ve lost a total of seven weeks through injury and ill health. I really want to get back up to swimming a mile, without stopping, but it’s hard going at the minute. 

I managed 1000m, in various sets, including a 400m and a couple of 200m IM, I am really happy with that. It’s only my second training swim, there’s a long way to go, yet! 

Swimming in silly hats…

OK, so I’m still awake, so I may as well write my next post…

Arthritis Care Gateshead is a charity that is  close to my heart, though I rarely attend meetings, owing to other commitments. It’s a place that’s given me so much: acceptance, cconfidence, friendship and the ability to manage my arthritis better. In short, they help pick me up, at my lowest point, when I was told I needed a walking stick, at 38. 

Now it’s time to give something back…

It’s a massive challenge that I’ve set myself: a marathon in a month, with a marathon in a month. 

Sound confusing…well let me explain!

A marathon, in running terms, is 26.2 miles, while a swimming marathon is 10km, so the plan is to swim 26.2 miles in a month, with 10km being swam in one week, which will take place during Arthritis Care Week in May 2017. It’s going to be a massive challenge!

The plan was to source a swimming hat, on which could be printed “Arthritis Care Gateshead” with my name printed on it, but it would seem that this only possible if ordering 500! So the idea is, to swim it in “silly swimming hats” the sillier the better. 

I’ve already sourced 3 and I’m on the hunt for more, I’m hoping I can get the branch involved in this and I’m really looking forward to the challenge.