I honestly can’t remember a time when I didn’t know how to swim. When I was very young, we lived in Florida and there was a pool close to our house. I don’t have a massive amount of memories from that time but I do remember the pool. I remember splitting my chin open on the side of it whilst demonstrating my amazing inability to jump in backwards. I still have the scar.
When we moved to Wales, we all got signed up for swimming lessons. One of our swimming teachers was a big bloke called Bob, who had a tattoo of an anchor on his arm. He would regularly push you in the pool and demand that you swim. We all did. We would also go swimming on weekends and on holidays. I found it astonishing that this was not something everyone did. Being able to swim has led me to do all sorts of other amazing activities like sailing, white water rafting, kayaking and body surfing. One year I even had a swimming birthday party.
When I got a bit older I took up lifesaving classes and discovered the joy of carrying another person while you swim. Thankfully I have never had to personally use this skill in real life. Although, I do have a memory of my brother rescuing a little girl who got into trouble when we were playing in a lake on holiday. I’m pretty sure my memory of this event is far more dramatic than it actually was, but I still think he’s a hero.
Once I got older, swimming became harder. The water messed up my hair and the goggles made my eyes look weird. Plus, there was always something else to do- like going to the pub with friends. Once I had kids, my hair and eyes looked weird anyway, but there was even less time to go to swimming pools or pubs. On the rare occasion we went swimming, I never got further than the baby pool. Have you tried swimming in one of those?
Now the children are older, and I have a bit more time, I decided I needed to start swimming again. I no longer care that my hair gets messed up and the goggles just add another layer of wrinkles. It’s certainly not enough to put me off. I like swimming and I find it to be easy exercise. It gives me time to think and it doesn’t hurt as much as a fitness class. I searched for a local pool and bought myself a new pair of goggles.
I arrived at the pool, trying my best to look like I knew what I was doing, and studied the three lanes on offer. The slow lane seemed to be full of people that had celebrated their 40th birthday quite a long time ago. The middle lane looked like it had a mixture of ages, and all were swimming at a reasonable pace. The fast lane appeared to be filled with Olympic athletes. I opted for the middle lane.
I had decided to swim for about half an hour and see how many lengths I could do. I think I did about 30 and I was a bit wobbly as I came out of the water. I made it look like I was shaking out my weary muscles so no one would notice I was about to fall over. It wasn’t much but I felt very proud of myself for making this first step.
Unfortunately, over the last few weeks I have been getting increasingly annoyed with the middle lane. Occasionally people are using it who really should consider the slower option. There are signs up everywhere about lane etiquette but not everybody waits at the end of a lane to let you past. In true British tradition, I mutter about how annoying it is, and then continue to tread water because the sign says you should not overtake. I also don’t ask if I can pass them, because I am rubbish at any form of confrontation- even with people in swimsuits. I should be brave and just go in the fast lane, but I would rather be annoyed in the middle lane than annoying in the fast lane.
Until this week! This week I was brave. The pool wasn’t too busy and the olympiads seemed to be having a week off, so I went for it. I went in the fast lane. I’m trying not to take it personally that after 2 lengths my fellow fast laners all left. Maybe they saw me as too much competition. Eventually a couple of people joined me and yes, I was the slowest. After every 6 lengths I would wait to let them go past with a loud, “You are faster than me, please go ahead.” I would then turn and give a smug nod to the middle laners. I’m a little worried that my picture will be on the fast lane board next week with a line through it- and possibly the middle lane board too.
I’ve now been going for nearly 2 months and I have an app that tells me which equivalent rivers I have swum. I’m currently making my way down the River Thames- thankfully only in virtual form. I’m up to 52 lengths in 39 minute and have to sit on the side after leaving the pool until my body gets used to gravity again and my legs remember how to walk. In total I have swum 5,350m.
I can’t always get to the pool each week, but I’m pretty pleased with how well I’ve stuck to it so far.