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  • Writer's pictureEmily Red

The Swimming Saga 🏊‍♀️

The only thing that stopped me doing a triathlon until now, was the swim. I love swimming!

I love lake swims in OCR, I love swimming in the sea, but, despite liking swimming, I’ve never done it properly. Splashing around in the sea or the pool on holiday hardly counts as training, and it wasn’t until I did a ‘Sunfit’ fitness holiday with British Military Fitness back in 2014 that I realised I didn’t even know how to swim properly.

It’s taken me 6 years since that fitness holiday - where I learned some very basic techniques - to pluck up the courage and actually start swimming regularly. Then, a month into actually starting, we went into lockdown 🤦🏻‍♀️.

The thing that held me back to start swimming was my lack of confidence. I’d go to a pool, see people who looked like they knew what they were doing, and I felt so inadequate. I’d worry I’d not do it right, or get in someone’s way. And knowing which lane to actually start swimming in to begin with was so daunting!

This was (sometimes still is) my inner monologue:

“I’m clearly not good enough for the fast lane, let’s start in the slow lane & build up”

“But they are doing breast stroke, I want to do front crawl, what if they get in my way?”

“But woah, actually they are super fast at breast stroke, maybe I’ll get in their way!”

“Oh, no one at all is in the medium lane, maybe I’ll go in there till someone else comes.”

“But what if I don’t notice & they sneak up on me & I get in their way!”

“Surely I’m not even good enough for the medium lane yet?”

“And what about when I’m resting at the edge of the pool, these people don’t seem to be resting at all.”

“They are all so good, do other people not rest?”

“Am I that bad I need to rest every 25m!”

“Wish I knew the etiquette!”

“Am I wearing my goggles right?”

“Do I need a swim cap?”

“Am I wearing my swim cap right?”

“Can I take drinking water with me pool side?”

And so on.

Essentially, this held me back for 6 years. Do you know what I did to overcome it? I invited a friend to come swimming with me, and they looked like they knew what they were doing. And I was with them. Maybe I looked like I knew what I was doing too! Maybe I can do this by myself? And from that day I’ve had the confidence to swim by myself, and little by little I’m learning the etiquette & figuring out what to do.

It’s bizarre how much your brain can hold you back from something, when other times it makes you do stupid things - like buy an Ironman ticket before you know you can actually go the distance. But if your brain has an inner monologue stopping you from doing something, like mine did for swimming, just do what you can to get the courage to actually try it. Whether that be to take someone with you, or ask someone to watch you (or better yet get a coach to guide you through it), you’ll feel so much better when you prove to yourself that whatever it was that was holding you back, doesn’t matter anymore.

When the first lockdown was lifted and the pools opened again, I went for a swim to see where I was at. Pre-lockdown, in the one month of me beginning my training, I managed to get to a stage where I swam one kilometre without having to stop. My first session back after lockdown, I was huffing and puffing after every 25m again. This was frustrating, but I persevered. I downloaded a swim training plan from the Swim England website (membership is free), which took me from 300 m to 2 km. I completed this successfully, and during which I learned how to breathe bilaterally, and purchased some props to help with my training, such as flippers, pull buoy and kickboard.

After the most recent lockdown, I was worried that having three months away from the water would put me right back to square one again, but thankfully, when the outdoor pools reopened at the end of March, it felt like I hadn't been away that long. My next big hurdle will be learning how to sight and get used to lake swimming.

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