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Why it’s not going so swimmingly

Written by Fiona March 03 2010

Little Miss Outdoors will thank me in the long-term. I’m sure of it! Every week from the age of 4 to 9 I insisted that she attended “proper” swimming lessons. She couldn’t see the point of getting wet and cold and having to do numerous lengths of crawl, breaststroke, backstroke etc. She hated getting out to get dried. She moaned and whinged and even had tantrums at the side of the pool on occasions. But I insisted. Because I think that learning to swim is really important.

Yesterday at a Glasgow Triathlon Club swim session I wished I’d been forced to do the same. While I learned to swim at a young age I did not attend “proper” lessons and our school didn’t have a pool so I have always been simply a “for pleasure” swimmer. My swimming ability has also been sufficient to allow me to take part in a wide range of enjoyable water-based activities including wake boarding, water skiing, wind surfing, sailing and even canal boating.

But then I joined Glasgow Triathlon Club – and realised that I’m actually a hopeless swimmer! I could manage a few lengths before I collapsed. Literally. At that time one of the coaches described me as “similar to a jumper splashing round and round a washing machine”. But I listened to the coaches, I watched cringing underwater videos of myself swimming, I did lengths, I attended sessions week after week – and slowly I improved.

But then I took a year off! This was because a) swimming is not my favoured sport b) I hate getting cold and wet c) I hate the getting out and drying yourself bit d) I prefer to run and cycle e) my new-ish status of single mum doesn’t make it easy to attend evening swim sessions with the tri club.

However, I now have a plan to do a triathlon or two this summer and so I need to do a bit of swimming. Which is how I came to be at the local pool last night. (Little Miss Outdoors was being babysat.) And while I have not returned to the days of looking like a jumper in a washing machine it was pretty clear that after just a few lengths I am certainly not swim-fit.

You see swimming is a whole lot to do with technique. Despite being running fit I have lost a lot of the swim technique I learned a year ago. According to last night’s coach it would also have been very beneficial if I had learned to swim properly as a child. I think it’s rather like driving. If you were required to sit your test again you would have to break all the nasty driving habits you’ve picked up over the last two decades.

And so you can now see why Little Miss Outdoors may well thank me for her enforced lessons in years to come. Watching her swim is just so lovely as she has learned the right technique from the start. She is oh-so-graceful.

Meanwhile, her mum is attempting to convert from woolly jumper to sleek dolphin. And I’ve only got a few months to make this transformation. I’ll keep you posted as to how I go. Glug, glug…

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