Now I don’t know about you but out of the three disciplines that make up our sport, I’m more likely to shy away from a swimming session than I am from a run in the rain or an icy bike ride. Even the warm water of a heated pool doesn’t entice me. I’d rather be outside getting battered by the elements than inside like a goldfish swimming up and down in an enclosed tank.
It’s not that I don’t enjoy the actual swimming when I drag myself to the pool, I do. It’s just the actual thought of dragging myself there. I can come up with an excuse in a heartbeat: I’m too busy, It’s too cold, It’s Friday, It’s Monday, It’s (insert any other day of the week here). You get the picture? I just don’t get that adrenaline rush, that buzz that comes from a really good run, or hitting 30mph on the bike.
It might be because swimming is my weakest discipline, I struggle with it. And how many of us really enjoy something we struggle with? I know I can get through an Ironman swim in less than 85 minutes, I’ve done it three times already. I’m not going to make massive improvements, my time is better spent out on the bike building my strength in THE key Ironman discipline.
I actually enjoy open water swimming, which is a real full 360 switch. It used to terrify me. The cold, dark waters of the United Kingdom, the feeling of not knowing what is lurking underneath combined to make donning a wetsuit a necessary evil rather than a delight. It was an unreal feeling considering I’m a qualified scuba diver, learning in water where visibility was so bad we had to use lights in a disused quarry. Hell I’ve dived up close and personal with two of the planets apex predators, the Nile Crocodile and The Great White Shark...yet I was scared of what was beneath my feet.
It’s hard to put my finger on what changed to make me prefer open water swimming to pool based swimming, it’s still dark, it’s still cold and I’ve no idea what lurks beneath. But now the open water season is over because of the cold temperatures I really miss it. In the past I could quite easily have gone from September to May only swimming a dozen times. This year however, I’m focussed. I want to be in the shape of my life next season, I want 2012 to be the year of success, and for that to happen I’m changing my attitude to a lot of things including swimming.
I signed up to the Club Masters swim sessions on a Thursday night. I’ve not attended before, the main excuse being Charlotte wasn’t in a routine. She’s now in bed earlier than the 8.30pm start time so I no longer have an excuse. I was extremely nervous stood with my club mates, including Kona qualifiers, on the side of the pool.
I’d only ever swam in a lake with them before and it’s easy to hide in a lake. Here I was, about to be exposed. I felt like the new kid that’s just transferred schools, walking into a classroom for the first time to be met by silence. Mad really, because I’ve known them all for years and consider them friends.
That first night I really struggled, my breathing was all over the place, my stroke was embarrassing and yet I worked harder than I ever have before.
I felt lightheaded but as the session went on something strange started to happen, I could feel myself starting to smile. I must admit I came away feeling I was further behind than I actually am but it gave me a determination that I would improve, I would overcome my inner swimming sloth.
This week I was a man possessed, everything went right. I felt long and slippery as I cut through the water. Even the kick drills felt easier, and my swim kick is non-existent usually. It was hard work, drills and then 100,200,300,200,100 metre pyramids and more drills another pyramid and a gentle warm down to finish. I was surprised when the coach said we’d reached the warm down, they say “Time fly’s when you are having fun”. Me? Having fun swimming?
Oh hell yeah! I actually can’t wait for this week’s session, and will be practising in the pool before that as well. This really could be the start of a new romance, one that I hope ends in marriage!