Strava: Morning Swim

I have started swimming again.

Those who follow me on Strava will have noted / been bored senseless / “where is your bike?” etc..

I say swimming, rather, I turn up to the pool in the morning before work, make progress up and down the communal bathtub, without flailing or injesting or inhailing (too much) water, get out, get changed, go home, eat breakfast, start my day.

It’s great.

There are 4 lanes, 25m long. Since I have discovered prescription goggles and the pull buoy life has become easier. Seeing and floating have always been key to water-related activities. It’s not too warm and my only real gripes are FOR THE LOVE OF GOD HAIR – and if you have blinds down over windows because the lifeguards cannot see (due to reflection) – why have them at all – and no … “we sometimes open them at night” …. is not a suitable answer to put me in my happy place.

So when do you become a swimmer?

I have always been very specific that a person “on a bike” is a “person on a bike” and differs from a “cyclist”. It matters. Well, it matters to me at the very least.

There is something different about the latter, their souplesse, their flow, cadence, whatever it is – it sets them apart from “person on a bike”. They move differently, they suffer differently. So with that – at what point do you become a swimmer – as to me I am a lapsed fat cyclist, in a pool?

At what point does the change happen, at what point are you accepted?

It troubles me.

Mindfulness?

Starting out each morning always feels very much like a bag of spanners. Having succeeded in dragging myself out from under the surprisingly warm showers and into the still-heating-up hot/cold end pool. Before all too often heading out too fast trying to correct issues with momentum as opposed to style (Coach Chad would not be pleased) and paying in full.

Less is indeed more when drag is VAST compared to air. But pro-tip – THERE ARE NO HILLS IN THE POOL – so gravity and mass mean nothing. This, for me, right now, best news. Ev-Ar.

After the first half an hour it all becomes a lot easier. A transition happens where you kinda forget whether you had your eyes open (to be fair – short of keeping yourself straight there is not a lot to see… and why does it always feel faster swimming toward the shallow end?), and your focus moves to the parts of the stroke and the water moving around you. The only real noise being the bubbling air leaving your face ready for the next gulp.

Breathing is finally no more of a burden, and you are doing it without thinking. Burps and other mechanics of starting the day are gone, and it’s now just down to tilting, blowing out, and stretching.

Arms just on auto pilot by now, and the energy you put in now starting to sap away. The beautiful repetition. Reach, catch, arc, exit, and repeat. Trying to put in as little as possible without screwing something up.

The only real distractions are others in the lane, and the turns – otherwise 30 seconds of focus. Pause. Repeat.

I love it.

Riding is my first love, but this – this is where my quiet is. This is where thoughts come and go like watching your breath. This is where time evaporates, and your mind quiets, and things unravel.

Breathe

If there is something it has taught me, it is breath control.

Generally feeling like being waterboarded for the first 15 minutes before I let go and rely on my senses to do it as opposed to having to play Nanny State for my somewhat misguided sympathetic nervous system. Then it just works.

It transfers well to dry land too – better use of air – better in and out of air. I appreciate this sounds silly – but its true – I can breathe better through “not”.

Achieve

I have no idea what I should be able to do. What is fast. What is slow. What is far.

I know that I can put in between 2500 and 3000m in an hour.

I know I can end up with arms as useful as a T-Rex when I get home for a few hours but otherwise I know I can swim each day without apparent detriment.

“Why are you late?”
“I had trouble putting my pants on?”
“Really? Why
didn’t you just come home commando?”
“No, really, my arms
don’t work – its the whole dressed thing – not particularly challenging pants.”

This is all good. This is all VERY GOOD.

Well – not so much the pants bit – but the journey. I am a shit swimmist, but I enjoy it, no doubt for all the wrong reasons.

As I glance from the fast lane across the pool of people standing at edges, swimming with their legs dragging along the bottom of the pool, or tolerating the “I DID A FAST” types who turn up and zoom past you to then take a rest for 10 minutes…. we are all here, we are all trying, its not NORMAL to be up, or exercising at that time of day. Not normal is ace.

Yeah, and sorry for getting in the way “swimmers”.

Maybe I will brand myself with that as opposed to swimmist – ‘Not Normal’ – I can live with that : )

6 weeks into my adventure and long may it continue.

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