Swimming: My Escape from Reality

Without bragging, I’ve always been a good swimmer. As I child, I took to the water and my weekly swimming classes like a duck, I still keep a folder of all the Starfish, Shark, Water Skills etc certificates I gained between the ages of 4 and 9. One of my teachers called me a Water baby on a regular basis. After completing my Gold Award, I didn’t really know what to do next. I could have joined the local swim team then, but I’d heard rumours that you had to wake up at 5am to go training and no way was I doing that. With no obvious progression level, I stopped swimming and would just go casually with my auntie and cousin.

At secondary school, I met a teacher who’d change my life. Mr Burder. Do you Cally kids remember him? He was a triathlete and he also led training sessions for the athletics team before and after school. After my first few years on the athletics team (and rounders and netball teams) I got a bit bored. The hurdles got higher in competitions and I didn’t clear all of them all of the time (I still have the scars from that awful first race I did in year 7 where I only cleared two hurdles and fell at all the others). So I told Mr Burder I wanted to quit athletics. He wasn’t happy so took me and my friend to sit in the old PE office as he told me why quitting is never an option. I pleaded my case and told him I just wasn’t into athletics, it was too hard. So he posed the question, what sport DO you want to do? And I’ll help you get involved.

I told him how I’d always loved swimming, so he set me up with a trial at Coventry Swimming Club. I remember being very nervous, but after my first four widths, they told me I had a place in the Aqua squad. I was 14, so already too ‘old’ for the age group competitions but it did not stop or hinder me at all. Over the next few years, my swimming skills would develop greatly, I would perfect my butterfly stroke, I would enter races (win a few) and make ever-lasting friendships.

Standard aged 15 Myspace selfie!
Standard aged 15 Myspace selfie!

As a teenager, we all go through mental and physical changes. For me, swimming was an escape from the homework, the arguments at home and the rest of the world. When swimming however many lengths we swam, I would concentrate on counting the metres and remembering the next part of the set.There was no way I was thinking about fractions or anything else whilst I was in the water. The years I swam with Coventry were mostly positive. As a group (Team Aqua), we did so much together, we had crushes on the same coach, we played games and chatted when doing kick and we’d try to figure out the rules of waterpolo. There were water fights in the showers, where someone would fill a cap with cold water and throw it and there were donuts for everybody if it was someone’s birthday. We raised money for Marie Curie Cancer Care in the Swimathon and we went away to meets together, cheering for each other, whether we got PBs or not. Looking back, it’s a shame I had to quit, but with some physical issues and a lack of support from the club, there was no other option.

My first of 3 big sponsored swims
My first of 3 big sponsored swims

I stopped swimming competitively when I was 17 and although I casually went swimming, I was never part of a club or did any proper tailored sets…until now.

I decided to join the university Triathlon team as it’s kind of been a lifelong dream to complete one (inspired again by Mr Burder). Whereas in second year, I’d swim in the local pool and do my own thing, now I’m back in the lanes, touching my friends feet to overtake them and doing silly drills with even sillier names – head tap, finger trail and tiger turns (which are my favourite part of the Wednesday 6.30am training set).

What I love so much about being in the water is that it’s a time where I’m left alone with my conscious mind. There’s no music, adverts, Facebook notifications or text messages to distract me. I feel freer than ever when I’m in the water and the smell of chlorine after is a reminder of how swimming just pushes all those anxieties and worries out of my mind. My mind may occasionally drift to what cereals I’ll have for breakfast tomorrow, but the pressure of remembering the set and concentrating on my stroke is first and foremost.

That teacher was right when she called me a water baby. I love being immersed in the water, whether it be chlorinated or salty. The sea is an even better way to show those lingering problems where to go as I’m concentrating on the waves, currents and looking out for jellyfish.

Now I’ve got back into swimming as part of a team that encourages you, smiles with you and cries inside when the coach says vertical fly kick, I don’t know how I managed all these years without one.

Me at a gala
Me at a gala

One thing I should mention, is that after all these years swimming, I’ve come to love the feeling of water in my ear as the joyous moment when it finally comes out is made of dreams. Possibily because I, ashamedly, still have difficulty keeping my cap on my head!

A big thank you to everyone who has supported me in my sports, especially swimming as it’s very important to me. A special shout out to my Mum for taking me to all the training sessions and galas, my coaches at City of Coventry Swimming Club and most importantly to all the members of Team Aqua who have helped me in ways unimaginable.

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