48 hours to go

Swimathon weekend is nearly year….I’m very excited.

Now’s the time sort out your final perpetrations….training is done and on completion, you probably lobbed your kit bag, in a corner. Now’s the time to check it….putting on cold wet swimming gear, it not pleasant, in fact it’s pretty grim. Nor is it good to find your towel, wet and smelly or your costume green, furry and growing penicillin. If needed wash it and then repack it!

Irrespective of what your kit bag consists of, be it a Tesco carrier or a TYR swimming kit back, have a check check of the contents. Do you have everything you need? Most leisure centres sell costumes, goggle etc if you inadvertently get to the pool and think “oh crikes”. The day of Swimathon is not a good day, to try out some new kit, I made that error last year. I bought a new pair of goggles, to find they leaked.

Every swimmers kit is different, some consist of goggle, appropriate swim wear and a towel. Mine will contain, along these items the usual shower gel and shampoo, treat yourselves to a nice one, your are taking part in Swimathon. Swim spray, for getting rid of the chlorine smell, earol ear drops to reduce water trapping, in my ears. There’s nothing worse than that all to familiar sloshing feeling in my ears when I get out the pool. My inhalers and nebuliser will be also chucked in my bag.

Due to distances I’m swimming they’ll be every gels and protein bars, along with my water bottle and electrolyte drinks, dehydration can lead to cramp your legs.

Finally make your you know where your venue is and how your getting there. Have a trial drive if needed.

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Swimathon….minus 5 days

With Swimathon only 5 days away, if you’re swimming on the Friday, it’s time to think about preparing for the event itself.

Swimathon is an amazing evening, for the participant it is also a process. You sign up, often excitedly, then you begin your training. For some people training is relatively easy, they have easy access to a pool and are confident in their swimming abilities.

For some, it’s much less so. Pool access can be difficult, due to costs (my local pool is £5 a swim) and due to financial cutbacks, usually 3 or 4 pools of the 5 pools, in my borough, are closed or hired out in an evening. People have work, family and other commitments. Some people find themselves facing fear of water, of swimming. Some participants may find themselves struggling with swimming itself. This is what makes the new 400m challenge, so good. It’s an attainable distance when 60 lengths seems overwhelming.

I too, will be partaking in the 400m, hoping to swim it all freestyle and in less than 10 minutes. It will be an achievement for me, to get in the pool and swim it, without a warm up. Those who swim it against the background of such challenges, will have achieved far more than I have, times don’t matter, it’s participating and completing their challenge, that is important.

I find myself in the privileged position, of being a member of a gym with a 25m pool. I am also a confident swimmer, often being happier in the pool, than on land! Swimming 5km over 3 days, will still prove challengingly, dealing with fatigue and aching muscles.

So with Swimathon just a few short days away, now is the time to begin to prepare for the day itself.

Training

Your training should be concluding, swimming up until the day of your event, or in my case, events, is not usually beneficial. particularly if you’re swimming a longer event. A period of rest, before your event, helps you to recover in preparation for the event itself.

I have one training swim left, 2400m, 6x400m, I plan to head to the pool at 6pm tonight, complete it and then it’s 4 days off.

Plan

I always find it helpful, to have a plan in mind as to how I will complete my swim, in particular my 1.5km and 2.5km. In 2016, I had no plan, I just wanted to finish it. Last year, my plan was to swim it alternate 50m free, 25m breaststroke.

On the day itself though, my confidence alluded me. I swam it alternating 25m freestyle and 25m breaststroke. In was delighted with my time, smashing my PB by over 25 minutes, yet I knew that I would of gone faster still, had I swam it as I’d planned. This year I have a plan in mind, I appreciate it might not work on the day, but I decided to commit the final two weeks of training on building up my times and freestyle distances, aiming to swim 10 miles in my 2 weeks.

I have been really encouraged by how it has gone, in fact it has gone far better than I anticipated. My PB for 400m has tumbled, by over 40 seconds to 9m 33.1 seconds. I learnt that I can get in the pool and swim 400m freestyle, with no warm up. It has really boosted my confidence.

Kit

This is not a good time, to change your kit! Last year I purchased new goggles, ready for the event. My old ones fogged. I didn’t want foggy goggles. The new ones I discovered, on my first length, leaked. I was able to sort them out, but I had to careful, when pushing away from the wall, as not to allow a tidal wave of water into my goggles.

Make sure your happy and comfy, in your costume. I’ve had costumes that have chaffed, you’re also going to be in a public arena, so are you comfortable in your costume/jammers/trunks.

Food and sleep

Get plenty of both, but make sure you eat the right food, particularly if you’re doing a longer distance. Lots of carbohydrates and protein, fresh fruit and veg. Try to stay away from processed food. Swimming 5km isn’t a reason to head to BK or McDonalds, on a regular basis!! Also drink plenty of water and stay well hydrated.

Medication

This doesn’t apply to all, but if you need regular medication, particularly for a condition, that could effect your swimming ability, make you have enough and take it as prescribed. As someone with arthritis and severe asthma, I make sure I’m well stocked up. Ensure you have what you need, at the event.

Emotions

Many people are totally chilled about the whole event, but if your first Swimathon, you may find yourself incredibly nervous. Think through how you will deal with this. You may find, as a result of adrenaline, nerves and just taking part, you go off too fast, factor into your final training swims, how you will manage this.

Be prepared also, for your emotions to be a bit overwhelming after the event, particularly if you’re swimming in memory of someone. Be proud of what you’ve achieved.

Sponsorship

You’re swimming for two amazing charities, tell people what you’re doing and why. Get your just giving page, out there. Carry a sponsorship form, with you.

Location, location, location

If your event isn’t at your local pool, find out where it is and how to get there and how long it will take. Look on street view, either drive yourself or get someone to drive you there. Or do a trial run on public transport, if this is how you plan to get to your venue.

Finally

I will post again, in a day or two, about preparing your kit bag and preparations 24 hours before the event.

Freestyle frustrations

Overall, I feel happy with my training and progress. I am pretty satisfied that I in a position where, I will be able to complete my swims, in the time frames I am aiming for, that is:

400m-10minutes

1500m-45minutes

2500m-1 hour 15 minutes

But, before Swimathon 2018 is even completed, I am planning for 2019. I want to swim 5km, at the London Aquatic Centre. To this end, I want to develop my freestyle (front crawl) further and to this end, I decided to look at the possibility of an intensive course. There’s bound to be something suitable I thought, in my ignorance.

Since this point I have spent many a fruitless hour searching Google. Google’s own search results haven’t helped in this regard, providing me with many random results. I’ve put in “adults”, Google comes back options for 9-16 year olds. Uk? No problem, here’s a swim school in New York. Swimming pool? Here’s a lake in Mexico that might suffice!

After searching through these inaccurate results, I’m really no further forward…many of the courses on offer, are for none swimmers. The cost, of some of these courses is astounding, £700 for 2 days or £1000 for 4, with 6 hours tuition, with the cost of the lesson amounting to £75 per hour! To the ”average person”, this will be way beyond their means. It’s certainly beyond mine.

Other options where a ”intermediate course”, this sounded more promising, but the small print revealed that the pool was only 11metre in length, meaning that with the six people, the course accommodated, there would be minimal opportunities for swimming.

Other courses are held in a pool, but with the focus on open water. Open water swimming is something I want to explore, in the future, but I’m not ready yet. One of my goals this year, is to swim in Tooting Bec Lido, which is 91metres long and I’m determined to utilise to outdoor swimming pools, in the North East of England, this year.

I beginning to conclude that finding a freestyle swim development course, that suits me and budget, is not available in the UK. To this end, I’m going to look for a Masters Group I can join, not to be a competitive swimmer, but to develop as a swimmer.

This, I feel, in conclusion may prove to be the better option. Aside from the fact, that the costs are considerably less, it will allow for continued, and supported, development in opposed to a short, sharp burst of development, offered by a course.

Swimathon minus 4 weeks….

In less than four weeks time, my Swimathon challenge will be over, for 2018, then it’s on to training for the next one, the big one…5km at London Aquatic Centre in 2019.

Training has gone a bit of the rails, the “Beast from the East” struck, bringing with it lots of snow, ice and cold weather. It wasn’t the cold weather that prevented me from swimming, but rather the fact that leisure centres were shut for days. My car was also stuck in a snow drift! When The pools eventually re-opened, the water was freezing as the heating had been turned off or down, during their period of closure.

Life too, has generally been busy. I help at my local Guide and Brownie packs so that’s two evenings a week, taken up. Work too, has also been demanding. All this has contributed to a general feeling of lack of energy and “can’t be botherness”. I have however, continued my swim training, on a Saturday morning. This has been going well.

The main focus, this past term, has been the mastering of tumble turns. I had a head start on this, as I learnt how to tumble turn, during my 1:1 lessons. Confidence is main issue. Completing tumble turns, takes 2 to 3 seconds, but in those seconds, you have to get your distance, breathing and body position, correct. Much amusement has has ensued, as the four of us have each made some pretty hilarious errors. I’ve missed the wall, inhaled water and emerged spluttering and coughing. Thankfully, being a controlled environment, no serious injury has occurred.

It is also proving challenging, the fact that in training, I am swimming with those of different abilities. The pool is a 20m four lane pool, the lane I am assigned to is shared with three other swimmers, P, D and M. We get on well, but we are each of different abilities, speeds and attitudes to swim training. This can prove frustrating, at times, on occasions I have been unable to complete the main set, as I’ve found myself stuck behind another swimmer, or having to stop. I am not however, ready to move to a faster lane. I have discussed this with my coach and in response he has advised me, that he is going to give it some consideration over the Easter holidays.

Speaking of the Easter holidays, I plan to use this to my advantage. Having my evenings to myself, albeit temporarily, means I can fit a lot more training in. Over the Easter holiday period, I am planning to swim, at least 10km a week, this will mean at least four sessions in the pool. I know I am physically capable of it, I want to work on my freestyle technique, which I hope will be the main stroke I will swim, when completing my Swimathon Challenge.

Last night I swam 2600 metres, by means of a “ladder set”. A ladder set is essentially where you gradually increase and then decrease your distance, the ladder set I employed was six 50m, four 100m, two 200m and a 400m, then back down again. I really enjoyed it. I’m going to look for a more challenging ladder set, to complete as Swimathon gets even near.

Long time, no blog!

There are a number of things I want to share, on my blog. Swimathon is now only six and half weeks away 🤔🤔🤔 my training is going ok, but I know I need to dedicate more time to it. I am also regularly partaking in aquafit, I’m really enjoying that.

Life is somewhat busy, at the minute, but I’m hoping that things will settle fown soon. I am also planning on blogging far more frequently, than I have been. Hopefully, by the end of this week, there will be a couple od posts, completed.

I haven’t been completely failing to blog though, this week I am Swimathon’s Guest Blogger. You can read it here

Scaling the wall..

I’ve wanted to write, a post for sometime, about living with a disability. Not just living, but living positively, but what I didn’t want to do, is juet talk about MY life with MY disabilty, because then it becomes inward looking and serves little purpose. I needed a base, a foundation and a means of making it relevant, to all.

I do have a disability, I use a walking stick and my asthma is deemed, also to be a disabilty. Asthma is not in itself, a disability, it is dependent on the severity and the impact on a person’s life. My asthma is severe, conseuquently, it does have a quite a significant impact on my life.

I am however, very lucky, today we have medications, and the knowledge, to allow asthma patients, like me, to live a near normal life.

My arthritis, along with my back injury, means that I experience both pain and jpint stiffness. Without regular excercise, particularly swimming, it gets much worse.

Swimming has been amazing for me, it’s changed my life. When I walked out of my physio appointment, I believed that I had been given a diagnosis, that would have a negative impact. What I could not know, at that time was that I had been given, what was to prove, to be a life changing piece of advice. Take up swimming!

We are each given a choice, disabled or not, as to how we choose to live out lives. As Carl Jung stated “It’s not what happened to me, It’s what I choose to become. For this we need resilence and persistence. To quote A.P.J Abdhul Kalhem

“When we tackle obstacles, we find hidden reserves of courage and resilience we did not know we had. And it is only when we are faced with failure do we realise that these resources were always there within us. We only need to find them and move on with our lives”

We each face obstacles on a daily basis, life gets in the way, we pick up injuries, the weather is cold, we’re ill. Some of these are temporary, others permanent and when they are permanent, to quote Elizabeth Edwards

“Resilience is accepting your new reality, even if it’s less good than the one you had before”.

How you respond to challenges, the difficulties of getting started and keeping going, is down to each individual. Every person is different and so it stands to reason, that how we deal with the things that life throws at you, will vary.

To use an analogy if you are faced with a huge brick wall, how are you going to tackle it?

Some will choose tp climb over it, some will stand and stare are it, thinking that getting to the opposite side, is near impossible, before coming to the conclusion, I think I can do this and through their own strength and perseverance, will get there eventually. Others will knock a hole througb it some, may tunnel under it. There is no right way.

A small minority will look and go “Nah”…It’s too high, I can’t climb over, I can’t get round it, I don’t have the right tools, to break through it and the grounds too hard and cold, to dig under it. I give up! They walk away, having never really considered what they could achieve or how they could complete the task. They never learn, just what night be waiting for them, on the other side!.

I spent two years, staring at my wall. I wanted to learn to swim, but i didn’t know how to go about it. I was nervous, believed I was too old, terrified of putting my face in the water. All of these things, along with my health issues, were “my brick wall”.

I am so glad, I didn’t give up. I found a way to overcome these obstacles and in doing so, I found a form of exercise love. I also found new friends, my health too, benefited.

To have resilience and to be persistent often means stepping outside your comfort zone. To stop thinking of what you want to do, but believe you can’t do, to a mindset where you’re willing to try, through the use of your own resources. To stop seeing barriers as a way of preventing from you doing what you want to do, but rather seeing them as hurdles to get over, it’s about being determined. At times it requires more than that, it needs shear bloody mindedness.

I could go on, but I’m heading on the verge of waffling. I will conclude by saying, if you’re considering taking up swimming (or any other form of sport/excercise) before declaring “I can’t do this, I give up”, consider “what do I believe is stopping me?” “How do I face the challenges that lie ahead? How can I overcome them”.

Finally, be realistic…I will never run the Great North Run, climb Kilimanjaro, but I know in three months time I can (and I will) swim 1.5km, 2.5km and 400m over three days, I will complete my Swimathon Challenge.

Snow determined…

Last night the met office issued an amber warning, for snow. We haven’t had one of those for a while, this morning I woke to this!

Four inches of the stuff. Snow, in January is hardly unusual, but the North East of England hasn’t had a decent snow fall for a few years, now.

Today I was determined, I would going for a swim, but my street looked like this.

My car was going nowhere, except perhaps, spinning around in circles if I attenpted to drive it!

I didn’t take long to come the realisation, that if I was to have any chance of getting a decent swim in, it would be at my local pool, which is 10 minutes walk away. The gym, which I usually swim at, is 8 miles away. Twenty five minutes, in my car. As luck would have it, this morning, was one of the rare days, where it’s not closed for schools, clubs or other usage. This is why I’m a member of a gym and not the local leisure centre, lack of pool access!

So I set off, with temperature barely above freezing, I wrapped us as though I was going out with the intention of commiting a burglary! Like many asthmatics, cold air is a trigger, it makes my lungs grumpy, so I rock my scarfie!

It was all very pretty, as I wandered through the park.

By the time I arrived at the pool, I had a soggy bottom, in fact I had 2. My trouser bottoms. Wellies may of been a better plan! I hate soggy bottoms.

So I paid my £4.60 to swim. This is quite a bit of money, in these financially difficult times, three or our swims or taking the family and the costs soon mount up. Maybe this is one way, to increase the numbers swimming, reduce the cost.

Not many people had been brave enough (or should that read stupid) to venture out in snow, for a swim. The pool was relatively quite, however out of 16 people in the pool, only myself and 2 others, where able to swim using correct technique.

How many adult, have been denied the chance or who have been given limited access to learn to swim, properly. Some adults may believe, that they “don’t need to learn to swim properly”. How many adults are held back from swimming, by fears from childhood lessons?

Incorrect technique can lead to pain and discomfort, it also means that your swim is, inefficient and you simply don’t get out of your swim, what you could. In order to swim well, you need to swim streamlined!

The plus side of a quiet pool, was able to get into a lane. Although I really want to start training, I decided that I really need to concentrate first on getting my fitness and technique, back on track, following my recent 3 week hiatus from swimming. Thanks grumpy lungs!

In addition, I knew I would be having a master class, on Saturday, from the Olympians, Keri-Anne Payne and Duncan Goodhew, so I decided to wait, till after them as to allow me to get advice and tips on technique and training, which I can then combine with my exhisting plan!

My swim, this morning highlighted to me, how far I’ve come in just a year. A year ago, I still found myself, struggling a great deal, to master freestyle or front crawl, as it’s sometime known. It looks easy, but its a technical stroke to learn. It requires co-ordinating breathing, body rotation and correct body position along with correct position of both arm and legs!

A year ago, my go-to stroke was breaststroke. It is however, one of my weaker strokes on account of my back damage preventing me from fully executing the kick. Today, I swam 2000m, 80 lengths. Aside from a 200m IM, I swam 1750 metres freestyle. I swam only 50 metres breaststroke. I also swam 1500m in 1 hour and 4 minutes, with breaks. Twenty one months ago, my PB was 1 hour 8 minutes…without breaks. I’m really happy with this evidence of progress!