Tag Archives: no pain no gain

The big swim? I think I’m sunk.

I’ve just this week set myself a weekly posting challenge, and earlier this year I set myself a pretty tough fitness challenge, designed to keep me motivated.  The older I get, the more I have to concede that I am an irrepressibly goals orientated kind of girl!

Only three weeks ago things were going so well.  I was training regularly, I was getting the distances in, my stamina was improving.  I’d even done the full 5 kilometres once and clocked a good time, which I was hopefully expectant of smashing by the time my self-imposed mid-July deadline came around. I was feeling fit (if a little tired and achy!) and things were seeming good.

Hanging up my goggles. Well, for a while at least!

Hanging up my goggles. Well, for a while at least!

And then it all just pretty much fell apart. Asides from the fact that I’d gone through three pairs of goggles in the space of a month (‘they just don’t make things how they used to!’ etc etc), I was having to push through an increasing amount of pain each session.

I’ve got a long-term neck and back problem that I get treatment for.  It’s nothing really horrendous.  Sometimes things are ticking along quite nicely and I don’t get much pain, if any.  Sometimes I get horrible flare-ups, meaning painkillers, lots of physio, acupuncture, and trying not to feel too sorry for myself.

I’ve been getting treatment from a brilliant therapist for the past eight months and she has made so much difference for me. And she is really supportive of my general philosophy – that I should carry on exercising and living life as normal, and find ways to minimise but work through the pain.  Exactly what I’d always done before I started seeing her, so I could see no reason to change.

Well anyway, then I started getting pain down my arms.  And elbow pain.  And wrist pain.  Really constant, aching pain. I’m pretty good at ignoring pain, but I was starting to worry.  Was I spending too much time at the computer? Was the neck problem getting worse? Was there something more sinister that I needed to get checked out with the doctor? In addition to the neck and back pain I was already trying to ignore it was becoming a bit much.

Ahem, I am a wee tad mortified but also pretty relieved to say that having worked it through with my physiotherapist, it turns out I might have been a little too gung-ho with the swimming! Doing front-crawl really puts the pressure on the latissimus dorsi muscles (lats for short!) in the back.  And I’d not given them a gradual enough run up to the challenge, so they were struggling to maintain the pace, and therefore tightening up.  Which was then radiating pain down my arms and hands. Whoops, and other similar under-statements!

I’m embarrassed by my own idiocy to be honest.  I should know better.  But I wrongly assumed that because I was in a competitive swim squad when I was young, and I’ve always swum and kept in reasonable shape since, that my muscles would have retained their swim memory.  Now I know – ‘no pain no gain’ is not always a great motto to set your training to!

So having given me some remedial treatment, a wry smile and the strong suggestion that I step back from swimming for a while, in favour of low impact cycling and walking, my physio has gone back to treating the other aches and pains.  But seriously, who gets themselves in such a state that swimming isn’t advised?  What am I like?!

In the end, our household has been an entirely exercise-free zone the whole of this past week anyway.  We’ve all had colds and just felt really under the weather.  Well actually, my GP tells me I’ve got a bout of viral bronchitis, which makes me feel less like a total wimp for feeling so knocked about this week!  That’s the comforting shelter of big medical words for you!!

Long term, regular exercise and that rush of feel good endorphins is non-negotiable for me.  It really helps clear my head and focus my energy; I can’t imagine living without it.  So although my swimming goggles may be going into temporary holiday mode, I plan to dust them off and get them back in the water after my own little summer holiday.  I will just try easing into it a bit more next time!

Going swimmingly?

It has been nine weeks since I decided to implement a self-imposed mini boot-camp and set myself a massive general health and fitness challenge.  Alcohol free for three months, and regular training sessions in the pool, with the aim for my final fastest attempt at a five kilometre swim in mid-July.  And how are things progressing so far?

Well, they got off to a pretty shaky start. First things first – (as might have been predicted if you know me well!) – the alcohol detox plan went out of the window within an embarrassingly short amount of time.  Only about a week!  What was I thinking?!  I was never going to be able to spend a Saturday evening with friends drinking water when they were drinking wine.  So I relatively quickly accepted that I will just have to wait for my next pregnancy to feel virtuous and super clean-living again! I don’t drink a lot, and really, what is life without a glass of wine and a bar of chocolate every now and then?!

The first few weeks of my new regime also coincided with raging forest fires nearby.  Some days it was so bad that just being outside for more than a couple of minutes left you feeling wheezy and short of breath.  Not ideal conditions for long training sessions in an outdoor pool.  I did use the time to get to the gym instead and build up my cardio stamina on the cross trainer and treadmill.  Thankfully the forest fires seem to have been brought under control at last.  But it’s really only in the past three weeks that I’ve managed to get any serious amount of time in the water.

I’m swimming three times a week and covering 2.5-3km per session.  Based on current performance, I am reckoning on a total time for the full 5km at about the 1hour 35min mark.  But I haven’t done the full distance yet, so we will see.   I’d like to hit something around that time, but really the whole process has been more about the journey than the destination.

It has forced me to carve out some regular time for exercise, which I am so pleased about.  Swimming, more than any other exercise, really helps me to relax and work out the stresses and niggling thoughts bouncing round in my brain.  I think it is the white noise of being in the pool.  You get in your own zone and your own rhythm, you aren’t having to make small talk or acknowledge other people.  It’s just you and the water. It’s very calming. Which is perhaps an out thing to say when by the end of the session your heart is hammering, you are red in the face, and your arms are aching.  But there we go, that’s how it is!

I train early in the morning so it is not usually busy, but even by usual standards the pool has been so quiet this week.  It has been fantastic.  It really has just been me and the water some days! Hopefully next week will be the same…

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No pain, no gain.

I like things to work to a schedule.  To have a plan and goals.  So having drifted along for a while now, I am ready for a bit more structure!  There are three months between now and the end of the school year and our trip back to the UK to visit family and friends. So I have decided to set myself a challenge for that period. Three months of alcohol-free clean living and a big push to get back in the pool and try to re-activate my swimmer’s body…I know it is buried in there somewhere!

July deadline

Let the countdown begin…

Why? I’ve been struggling to properly establish a consistent workout routine, and I’ve been thinking for a while now that I need a goal to drive my post-baby body back to some kind of acceptable form.  But the trigger was the mother of all hangovers on Saturday after an embarrassingly small amount of alcohol.  As I get older my tolerance is getting rapidly less, whilst the hangovers just get worse and worse.  And quite frankly, the long recovery time just doesn’t seem worth it any more. I hate the frustration of wasting a day feeling rough and lolling around, begging mercy from the hangover gods.  I’ve said it all before, but this time I am putting it into action…teetotalism here I come…well for a short-term trial period anyway!

It is not as if I haven’t done it before. I can count on one hand the number of drinks I had in the whole 40 weeks I was pregnant.  But not drinking when you are pregnant is slightly different.  When I don’t have the health needs of my unborn child to consider and my friends are thrusting icy-cold, tempting margarita cocktails at me, will it still seem so easy? Undoubtedly not, but I like a challenge!

A return to the pool is at least familiar territory for me, and it doesn’t usually take me too long to get a basic level of swim fitness back. Although I’m not aiming too high – my relative heyday of competitive swimming form was admittedly some years ago now! And whilst I suspect this may be rose-tinted glasses territory, the smell of chlorine still makes me feel somewhat nostalgic for my childhood and teen years, and the many, many hours spent in the swimming pool churning up and down. Up and down. Up and down. Ahhhh, happy days! I am looking forward to getting back in the pool.

I am going to aim for three sessions a week, building the distance up so that my ultimate goal is a five kilometre swim. I plan to time the full distance swim once every four weeks and see how hard I can push myself on improving the time each month.  And to keep myself motivated I will report back on here every couple of weeks with a progress update. If I have to write it down it will shame me if I’m not doing my best! Perhaps I really am my own harshest critic!

Wish me luck.  I just might need it!  But then, ‘no pain, no gain’, as my swimming coach used to shout from the poolside.  Time will tell.