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!

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! 

And we’re off…training begins here!

The “silly swim hat marathon challenge” is six months in the future, but my training has to begin now. I will, without a doubt, loose training time due to my asthma and this has to be taken into account. Last winter, I was out the pool for 14 weeks, from November to April.

The first thing I need to be doing, is creating the time and getting into the habit of swimming five times a week. To complete the challenge I have set myself, I will need to swim on at least 5 days out of 7.

The next thing I need to be doing, is swimming at least a mile each time, building up to 2k. 

Tonight I completed my first training swim, I was planning on swimming a mile, but in an 18 metre pool this is monotentous! This is not helped by the fact that, pool is in the basement, with no natural light!

Half the pool was roped off, for childrens’ swimming lessons, though I’ve never actually seen the children swim a length. They seem to get verbal instruction, allowed to practice swimming a couple of metres then it’s back to sitting on the steps, while the next one has a go! 

That meant that the actual space for swimming was 18m long, by 3.5m wide. It takes very few people, for the pool to become very crowded. 

The pool itself, has it’s wall’s flanking three of its sides, meaning that it can soon get very choppy as the waves hit the walls and then bounce back. In a conventional pool, the water sloshed over the side and into the drain. This further adds to creating a challenging place to swim!

The pool, soon became crowded and busy. Most people were leisure swimmers, gently swimming up and down, heads up, hair and make up perfect, while chatting to their mates. (Obviously the make element applied largely to females!)

There were one or two, more serious swimmers, but trying to smash a distance, proved to be impossible. Then I had technical difficulties…

First of all, I couldn’t get my “swim watch” to work and being so dark, the pool is illunated with only small spot lights, it was near impossible to fix this issue. In the end I gave up and decided just to enjoy swimming, irrespective of my distance.

 Then my goggles began to leak, it’s pretty uncomfy swimming along with your goggles full of chlorinated water, it also results in looking like Mike, from Monsters Inc, after he sprayed deroderant in his eye!

I’ve never yet found a pair of goggles that didn’t leak after six months and I’m not yet convinced that I’ve found the right pair of goggle’s for me. However, I quickly realised, that part of the problem was that I was wearing a new swim hat, which sits lower down my forhead, hence preventing a tight seal for my goggle’s.  Having sorted that out, I was off and swimming.

It was a really good swim, though I didn’t complete the distance I wanted too. I did accomplish swimming six lengths (108m) front crawl, using tumble turns throughout. 

I also achieve swimming 3 lengths  (54m) butterfly, this I am particularly pleased about. When I started learning butterfly, it was deemed that, my chronic back injury rendered it too risky to swim more than 10m. In time, this was increased to 25m, as my strength improved and only last week, it was suggested to me, while I was at the pool, that I maybe try increasing it to 50m. Butterfly is a difficult stroke, for anyone and and anti-social one!!! 

Then having cracked 50m butterly,  I decided to see if I could increase my individual medley distance to 200m. Individual medley,  often shortened to IM, consists of an equal distance of Butterfly, Backstroke, Breast stroke and Freestyle.  It was hard, but I achieved it and now, I have another PB to improve on, along with my 1600m and 100m front crawl.

My asthma, really struggled towards he end of the swim, my chest was really tight and it took a good couple of hours for my lungs to calm down, but I’ll be back in the pool tomorrow!