The coach stood on the jetty as 15 of us swam back and forth. She went through the basics of ‘sighting’ something that will, hopefully, stop me swimming in a zigzag line. We swam a bit faster and then a bit slower.
The pointers were good, but what I got most out of it was swimming in a big group and relaxing. The thought of pairs of elbows and knees thrashing around near me makes me nervous, which in turn makes me forget how to swim. But in the space of this one hour session I went from having to breathe every other stroke to breathing every fourth – a good sign that I was more relaxed.
What’s more by the end of the session, open water swimming had gone from something that was scary and had to be endured to something, if not yet enjoyable, then something I could get used to. I watched the swimmers in the advanced group who had ventured out to the far side of the reservoir and back and I wanted to be like them.
Swimming in a big lake or a river makes sense to me. It’s like stepping off the treadmill and running outside. It’s scary at first and it’s more difficult than logic tells you it should be. At first you’re concentrating so hard on putting one foot in front of the other and not stepping in dog poo that you can’t appreciate the benefits of being outside: the fresh air, the grass, the progress.
Hopefully, soon, I’ll be able to lift up my head while swimming and look at what’s around me. What stated off as a mission to be able to swim a mile in a lake by September has changed. It’s now become a plan to learn how to enjoy swimming outside. It may take more time than the original plan, but it will be more rewarding in the long run.