Tag Archives: swimming

Big breath….off we go!

With swimming under water, perspective is everything.  If you start thinking about how far you’ve got to go, your mental focus collapses, your body goes into panic mode, and you pretty quickly find yourself scrambling to the surface!  As a regular swimmer I know that the ‘not breathing’ bit under the water would be impossible without getting the before and after ‘breathing’ bit right. And attitude is key.

I’ve trained my body to be able to go the distance, and my mind to trust that it can. I don’t focus on the ascent.  I definitely don’t focus on the fact that I have descended under the surface!  I just try to relax and focus on feeling the water as I slice through it. Totally in the moment.


I feel a lot of parallels with my approach to writing.  If I think about it too much I start to feel myself seizing up; the words drying up as my uncertainties become all-consuming.  But if I just take a really big breath, block out the whirring worries and write, I find my flow and all is good again.  It has worked up until now, anyway!

“All good writing is swimming under water and holding your breath”

(F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Embracing the carpe diem approach, I’ve signed up to National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo for short).  I am going to give it my all but, as a relatively last-minute decision, this isn’t something I have spent months preparing for. I’m not anticipating I’ll get anywhere close to completing the 50,000 word challenge.  But I am playing the long game with this one.  Anything I achieve and learn this year will help me mentally and physically prepare to participate in earnest next year.

As today is the first day of the month-long challenge, this is me taking a few really deep, long breaths before jumping in with both feet and making my descent.  It’s going to be a challenge, but a fun one I hope.  See you on the other side! I’ll be the one looking rather exhausted, in need of a long cool drink, but smiling…hopefully.



My entry for this week’s WordPress weekly photo challenge, ‘descent‘, and my NaNoWriMo pledge to myself!

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…