Wednesday’s child is full of woe,
What is it it about swimming?
Playing in water has been part of my life forever. When I was a child we had regular trips and holidays to the seaside. I remember endless days of diving through waves or looking for treasure at the bottom of the sea. When we weren’t on holiday my parents would take us to the swimming pool where we would play for an hour or so. We would do all the usual things: racing widths, swimming underwater, jumping off the diving board and scaring parents. I later learnt that my parents’ motive was to wear us out so that they could have some peace and quiet in the afternoon.
I carried on swimming when I went to college, once a week I would head to the pool and swim lengths. It was a place where I could immerse myself in my own thoughts and mechanically move through the water using a very bad breast stroke.
When I started work I got into the habit of having a short swim at lunchtime once or twice a week. It was especially welcome in the summer as it was an excuse to have a shower and feel clean and shower fresh in the afternoon.
Then I learnt to swim properly. The bad crawl and breaststroke were thrown away and I started to learn how to do the crawl. It took a while; I started off in the slow lane and slowly progressed. Every now and again something would click and another facet of swimming would open up. I studies books and videos to understand how it was all done. At the end of the process I ended up with a stroke that could take me a long way. I didn’t go fast but the endurance was there. As with running and cycling the challenge of going for a long distance started to appeal. It started in a small way with the challenge of a five kilometre pool swim and slowly progressed to swimming a length of Windermere.
Along the way I have swum down rivers, in clear warm seas, through monstrous waves, on my own and racing others. Though all this I have never lost the feeling that the water is a magical place and that it is a privilege to be immersed in it. Swimming to me is meditation and mindfulness. Meditation as it’s a place I can be on my own, just the sound of the water and my thought. The water is a place to think about things, to have ideas and to work through problems. The mindfulness is all about coordinating a series of simple movements and executing them perfectly; concentrating on the moment in hand to the exclusion of everything else. The feeling of exhaustion and elation after a long swim is a wonder to behold.