My friends and family must be sick of my updates on distance and speed.
I love the pool. In the water I am calm. I can think clearly. I’m getting better with cold showers and even making small talk in the steam room.
I like it when numbers go up
I love stats. Each visit I borrow a tracking band and get stats on my phone. I get so excited when I get the upload notification.
I hit my original goal within a month. I swam 2km and it took forever. So I made new ones and hit those. 25m in under 40 seconds. Swim 10 times in a month. Now, I’m at 31 minutes for 1km and want to hit 30.
I also can’t always keep count. Doing nothing but moving my limbs and counting to 40 is too much for me.
It’s like meditation
I am distracted. With the sum of human knowledge and cat pictures and pornography instantly available on my phone: I don’t have much time alone. In the pool it’s just me and my thoughts.
Breathe in. Head down. Arms forward. Leg kick. Breathe out. Arms back. Head up.
The steam room can be silent too. The heat blurs the line between body and room, the dull roar from the jacuzzi outside, and you can focus on the drip of liquid down your skin. The hot drops of condensation that fall. Breathing.
Sometimes it is not silent.
The social element
The late evening swimming session has a regular cast. Some of whom are very friendly. If you are a people watcher like me: they come in groups.
It’s nice to chat. There is no aim to any conversation. It’s just pleasant. Or boring.
The sauna is unpleasantly hot, so I have made my home in the steam room. Less of a sticky crush of bodies.
Outside the sauna is a shower. A 20 second blast of cold water to rinse off the sweat, and maybe go back in.
I worked my way up, staying under as long as I could until I managed the full time. Missing days lowers my tolerance. After 4 days off it hurt a bit. After a two weeks of going most days: it’s fine.
There is a trend for taking cold showers. Either for health benefits or for battling ‘the flinch’. The moment before you step in the cold when you freeze up and don’t want to. The idea is that if you can push through to the unpleasant showers then you can push through in other situations.
For me it is hopefully going to prepare me for the next season of wild swimming. Rivers are colder than the pool and while I have a shorter adjustment period than some of my friends, I’d rather suffer a bit now than suffer in nature.
It is so hard to see improvement day to day. It takes time to learn and for patterns to become clear.
I don’t know how to do front crawl. If I want a real speed increase I should just learn that. But seeing it laid out I can see that I have not only gotten faster but also more consistent.
I can also see it is not just about moving faster: it’s about moving better.
The way I move through the water now: makes me feel powerful. I have hit a stage where it doesn’t hurt and I can enjoy it. A mile still hurts. I’m writing this on a day with a 2 hour lanes slot where I intend on doing another mile and it will hurt.
This is a mess. But I don’t mind that. The distance I go overall is based on my mood and the time available.
The last few weeks I have aimed to do at least 40 lengths per visit. Twice my previous minimum. I’ve not been pushing myself, so I’m trying to do more.
Do I have to push myself?
I had a bad winter. I basically didn’t swim between my grandfather’s hospitalisation until his funeral. I didn’t want to be alone with my thoughts and my time was better spent with family.
I don’t think I need to push myself in my hobby. I swim for enjoyment. And I enjoy pushing myself.
Also I have taken my partner swimming twice and he announced that he’ll be able to beat me in a race after he gets a hang of things so I need to pivot from endurance to speed.