Monday, 2 March 2015

Finding my inner mermaid.

Apart from one week - a week that spanned half term, valentines day and my wedding anniversary - a week during which I was ill with tonsillitis and felt absolutely wretched - apart from that ONE week, the last two months have been amazing.

I would even go so far as to say that the last two months have been life changing.

In the last two months I have transformed myself from effectively a non-swimmer into a reasonably competent breaststroker who is happy and comfortable in the water. I never thought it would be possible. I would guess that I have been swimming more in the last two months than I have in the 50 odd years preceding them. I certainly put in the effort.  I did make a start on my freestyle stroke but I am way off where I want to be with that. My membership to the pool has now expired. Freestyle is a challenge for another day.

So I learned to swim. How is that so amazing and life changing?

On a fitness level it has been fantastic. Without ever sustaining any injury (unless you want to count bruising my ankle when I kicked it against the side of the pool) I have worked all my muscles and improved my stamina.  My boobs seem perkier and my bum is firmer.

I feel differently about my body. It may not be the body of a 20 year old but it is strong and capable. I've stopped looking for the faults and see the wonder of flesh and bone working in harmony. I absolutely love the feeling of stretching out into the longest, most streamlined shape possible to glide through the water.

Learning to breathe efficiently and control it has made me feel calmer both in and out of the water.

Achieving something that I never truly believed possible has strengthened my self belief.

Discovering a love of swimming has opened a wealth of possibilities. Holidaying somewhere with a pool is now massively more appealing. Open water swimming both at home and abroad is an untapped source of potential pleasure. Scuba diving suddenly seems not beyond reach.

And then of course there is competing in a triathlon which was the idea that started the whole 'learn to swim' project in the first place. I am not a fast swimmer. I am never going to win any prizes. But I am no longer fearful that I couldn't even manage the 200m required for a Sprint distance event. I CAN do it. And that is an empowering feeling.

It has been a pretty amazing couple of months.


Monday, 9 February 2015

Captain Virgo and the Mediocre Stoker

One thing usually needs to another.

Although the closest I have got to doing a triathlon is a slightly drunken promise to my daughter that I would train with her and enter with her at some point in the future, I am now actually signed up to take part in a rather special triathlon with my husband.

What's special about this particular triathlon is it's a Tandem Triathlon.

You enter as a team. One person completes a 1 kilometre swim, both ride 35 kilometres on a tandem bicycle and the non swimming team member finishes with a 10 kilometre run through a forest.

This year is the 30th anniversary of the event. When the event was little more than an idea in an enthusiast's mind, I would have been at University. I would have already met the man that many years later would become my husband. Had he been a little braver and more forward... or had the scales fallen from my eyes earlier... we may have become a couple then and our lives could have taken a quite different path. I have few regrets about the journey I took to arrive at the happy place I am now but I do  sometimes wonder about the 'what ifs' and taking part in this anniversary event provides, for me, an opportunity for reflection.

It also provides an opportunity to learn to ride a tandem.

As I have yet to prove myself capable of swimming 1km in any sort of time that would mean the race marshals would not have packed up and gone home, my husband volunteered to take the swimming role. That leaves me with the 10k run. I know I can run 10K and the forest trail sort of route is probably my most favourite kind of running but I have never attempted to run after having dismounted a bike - a bike of any sort, let alone a tandem. I am very definitely stepping into the unknown with that.

My husband is a man of action. Once he decides to do something he does not mess around. Within a couple of days of me expressing a willingness to do this with him, he came home with a second-hand tandem and has spent much of his available free time tinkering with it and ordering spare parts to get it running a smoothly as possible. I, in the meantime, thought it might be wise to do a little research into the practicalities of two people pedalling one contraption.


I found out that the person on the front is known as the Captain and the person on the back is the Stoker. I have tried to imagine myself executing the procedure for starting and stopping. I'm sure it will all make perfect sense once we actually get on the thing.

In order to enter the Trialthlon, we needed a team name. I did joke with my daughters (who bearing in mind are already quite embarrassed by the idea of their parents riding a tandem around the town where they live and know people) that we call ourselves Team S&M and ditch the cycling shorts for some leather bondage gear. I'm not sure the cycling shorts are that much less embarrassing anyway! I came up with a few ideas but we opted for one that acknowledges my husband's nautical background and my contentment to be just OK at things as long as I'm enjoy them. Thus the team Captain Virgo and the Mediocre Stoker was born.

We had a nice meal together to celebrate and toasted our new partnership with a carefully chosen beer.


Obviously we are hoping the our maiden voyage will as far removed from ill-fated Titanic's as possible.

Our place has now been booked. The tandem should be ready to go in time for half term. Let the training commence!









Monday, 2 February 2015

A Jantastic Start

After last year's success, I have signed up again to the online new year fitness challenge that is Jantastic.

The programme has evolved to include swimming and cycling as well as running which ties in very nicely with my commitment to my daughter to take part in a triathlon with her.

I have taken out a two month membership to my local swimming centre so for January and February I am really concentrating on the swimming.

The January targets were all about frequency of workouts per week. I set myself a target of three swims and 1 run per week. Driven by a desire to 'get my money's worth' from the membership costs and discovering an unexpected actual genuine pleasure in my watery endeavours, I easily exceeded my swimming target.

Now we have progressed into February and the targets are focussed on distance.

Whenever I have seen people swimming in that effortless way, length after length, I have wished that that could be me. I longed to be that person gliding through the water, confident and at ease. Until now, I  was the embarrassment making a lot of splash and achieving nothing but panic and a lungful of the wet stuff. I am proud that in four weeks I have left behind the old me and have joined the ranks of the gliders - sort of - my style is far from perfect but it is even farther from the spluttering wreck I once was.

I would probably be amazed if I added up all the lengths I have swum over the last  month and converted them to kilometres... but however impressive it might sound, there is a very big problem. I can reliably swim single lengths but the turn and repeat part eludes me. At best, I stop, have a couple of good gulps of air and then set off again. At worst, I stop and have a five minute gossip with whoever I happen to be with before I go. I sometimes kid myself that I am waiting for a decent gap free from other pool users before I set off but that sort of excuse is not going to go well for the triathlon.

The Jantastic distance challenge  is perfect to get me swimming continuous lengths up to the required 200 metres which is how far I will need to cover for a 'fun' triathlon. Two hundred metres equates to 8 lengths of my pool. Eight lengths doesn't seem too onerous a task until I remember the effort it takes to swim just one! My first week's challenge is to swim two lengths with a good turn and hopefully, I can build that up gradually over the four weeks. I am keeping my eye firmly fixed on the goal to be swimming 200 metres proficiently by the time my membership to the pool expires.

I am very grateful to Jantastic for providing the extra motivation when I need it. I am also grateful to Sports Direct for their next day delivery service as I seem to have slightly melted my current swimming costume trying to dry it out on a hot radiator. I shan't be doing that again!



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