I learnt to swim underwater first. Then I went through the standard school lessons with the stand out session being jumping into the pool with clothes on. Then got on with land based sports.
But water is part of me. My Grandmother was a long-distance sea swimmer, my cousins love swimming. I have always loved water, I’ve lived by the sea since I left home at 19 and I’m the first one to paddle in a mountain stream on a walk. Water soothes and restores me.
However, although I could ‘swim’, I couldn’t actually swim properly. When I have been recovering from various injuries, I’ve been told to start with swimming, but swimming lengths bored me. I couldn’t do it effectively. I didn’t get it when people talked about getting into the flow of swimming lengths or it being a meditation.
So it was time to learn.
When researching swimming lessons, I came across the Shaw Method. It’s a method of teaching swimming developed through Alexander Technique principles, so designed to be gentle and supportive for those with injuries. It’s also good for those with any fears around water or swimming.
After the first lesson, I was hooked. I came home so energised. I finally felt like I was dancing in the water, something I missed after having to stop dancing and climbing through injury. Finally, I felt I could be efficient in the water.
This also coincided with reading and watching lots about wild swimming, especially some amazing short films about some inspiring female wild swimmers. I wanted to do that.
So my journey into the water has begun – properly – not just my feet. I’ve done 2 sets of lessons and I’ve signed up for a gym membership so I have somewhere really nice to swim (unfortunately public pools are poor quality near me). I’m lucky that I have 2 excellent community run lidos for the summer and I also have the sea. I’m trying to remember that even a quick 20 mins revives me, even if that only means 10 lengths and so go frequently. My towel and costume are hanging on the line after today’s quick 10 lengths, ready for tomorrow’s.
I love it that swimming is accessible, everywhere has public swimming pools (I’m just fussy). You just need a swimming costume to get started. If you need to learn, there are lots of organisations out there, try the Amateur Swimming Association to get started. Many specialising in teaching those with fear of the water or putting their head in. Swimming is good for the body and mind. Especially the mind. Even if you are doing a slow, head out of the water breast stroke, you are still swimming, you are still doing something. I love it that I see all sorts at the pool, from young to old, those that do 40 fast lengths, to those that gently float.
If you want further inspiration, have a look at some of our wonderful female Olympic swimmers, from Rebecca Adlington and Ellie Simmonds in the pool, to Keri Anne Payne in Open Water swimming. Watch these amazing short outdoor swimming films from the Kendal Outdoor Film Festival. For advice on swimming outdoors safely look at the Outdoor Swimming Society. The Guardian newspaper archives also have lots on swimming too.
Go on - dip a toe in – the water’s lovely.
You can find me blogging about various bits, including wild swimming, other outdoor and sporting adventures and general musings at Butterfliesandblankets.wordpress.com